Transfer Day

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Mikel Landa

It’s transfer day in cycling. Under the UCI rules existing professionals can now sign for another team for the 2018 season, both a pointless rule and a precious one.

Seven the top-10 in the Tour de France are potentially on the market* but it’s also the start of a nervous two months for lesser riders whose contract is up at the end of the year. Here’s a quick scan of the market…

* The magnificent seven are: Rigoberto Uràn (likely to renew with Slipstream, Trek-Segafredo interested), Mikel Landa (Movistar unless Sky make him an offer he can’t refuse), Fabio Aru (UAE Emirates), Daniel Martin, Louis Meintjes (a return to Dimension Data), Alberto Contador (very likely exercising an option to remain at Trek-Segafredo for one more year) and Warren Barguil (more below).

Transfer season? It never ends. Wages for the biggest part of any team budget and by a long way meaning that recruitment is something that gets a lot of management attention and well before August. By now budgets and rosters are in place rather than being cobbled together. The UCI rules may allow teams to sign riders for the upcoming season from today onwards but the rider market has been bubbling away since the start of the season already – cyclingnews.com had a handy 50 riders out of contract in February – and reached boiling point in July. Officially teams cannot sign riders in March but they can reach agreements, whether a handshake or a pre-contract long before the 1 August date. The rule is flouted in practice but it also makes sense allowing existing employers the chance to match rival offers before anything official is signed.

2017-8 market: it should be a quieter year for transfers where the defining moves are about buying in leaders and talent rather than defensive moves to shore up their rankings to avoid relegation. After the UCI bungled its ever-changing plans for the World Tour the story is the status quo: the 18 teams in the World Tour are guaranteed their place for 2018 and 2019. This means there’s no mad dash for riders with UCI ranking points to avoid relegation. This can be lucrative for some riders but for the teams these are forced signings, defensive moves based on a rider’s points haul rather than their promise.

Quiet market: there’s activity but a lot of it isn’t leaking out as much as it did before. Some of the stories that do go public like Elia Viviani moving mid-season to UAE Emirates turn out to be duds.

Musical chairs: with Fabio Aru set to leave Astana for UAE Emirates it leaves the Kazakh squad in search of a marquee grand tour rider which in turn means whoever they sign could have to be replaced in their old team… although Dan Martin is being mentioned in today’s L’Equipe newspaper as an Astana target and it’s not unlikely that Quick Step go into the market for a new stage racer. Similarly if Mikel Landa goes to Movistar then will Nairo Quintana stay? L’Equipe today links the Colombian to Team Sky but if Landa is leaving because he wants leadership why would Quintana join? A similar story for some sprinters with Alexander Kristoff linked to UAE Emirates – is being linked to UAE the new linked to Astana? – which means Katusha-Alpecin could fill the void by signing Marcel Kittel, no doubt to the satisfaction of their German shampoo sponsor.

Quick Step: they are re-signing riders for the future, we’ve know for some time the team’s future is secured but they’ve yet to make a big announcement. Is their budget settled?

Theme: spot a connection so far? The game of musical chairs is played by the big teams. A lot of the teams mentioned are the bigger budget outfits like Sky, Movistar, Katusha, Astana, Quick Step and UAE Emirates. BMC Racing already have Greg Van Avermaet and Richie Porte so seem unlikely to enter the market. Team owner Andy Rihs, who is gravely ill, has decided to back the squad for another season.

Beyond The Headlines, Part I: for all the gossip and intrigue let’s consider the teams who are not splashing the cash. Take Team Sunweb which brings on riders with long term development plans. They’ve now got a headache because of Tom Dumoulin and Warren Barguil and how to combine them if they both race the Tour de France next summer. A luxurious problem and it seems Barguil could leave despite having a year left on his contract with them. Why? Well it suits the management because they’ve signed Tom Dumoulin through to the end of 2021. The Dutchman is the cornerstone around which the team is built and his riding style is predicated on steady, linear climbing efforts which contrast with Warren Barguil’s lively accelerations and attacks. It also suits Barguil because he’s now able to command a much higher salary than he was a month ago so he can sign elsewhere for a much higher rate. Other teams that don’t make a splash include Ag2r La Mondiale whose discreet signing of Oliver Naesen last year turned out to be a great move, so much that they’ve already given him a new long term deal to the end of 2019. Meanwhile FDJ are quietly adding foreign support around their core French riders with Dutch champion Ramon Sinkeldam said to be on his way (update: Sinkeldam’s move is confirmed)

Beyond The Headlines, Part II: spare a thought for all those riders not making the headlines today. While star signings and contracts worth millions make the headlines the reality for most pros is hoping for a renewal and this can be a nervous time for domestiques and gregarios. With teams putting in a lot of work into securing the services of the star riders now they can tend to the contracts of their helpers. If a team doesn’t notify a rider in writing by the end of September then the rider can assume they’ve got a contract for the following season but to sit back and wait for the post is risky. It’s a background theme during the Vuelta with the Spanish race as a shop window.

Beyond the World Tour: run a Pro Continental team? Want an invitation to a grand tour? It’s getting harder than ever with more and more teams in cycling’s second tier and the way to stand out is to sign a marquee rider. We’re used to seeing at least one Italian team grumble about the lack of an invitation to the Giro but signing a big name rider could help their chances. Now the same scenario is going to apply in France because Direct Energie, Cofidis, Fortuneo-Oscaro and the new Vital Concept team being assembled by Jérôme Pineau team can’t be sure of a start unless they’ve got a star name and if they want to ride the Vuelta too in order to guarantee plenty of their riders can bank a grand tour in their legs then they need more riders too.

 

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Toby August 1, 2017 at 1:38 pm

I’ll be amazed if Landa doesn’t go to Movistar.

RonDe August 1, 2017 at 6:47 pm

I don’t understand Landa to Movistar. He claims to want top billing yet goes to a team where Quintana and Valverde juggle top spot between them. I fail to see how he’ll be higher in the pecking order than he is at Sky. And Sky gave him top billing at two Giros anyway. But misfortune, sickness and then a crash, ruined successive versions of the race for him. Hardly Sky’s fault.

Tim August 1, 2017 at 9:52 pm

I suspect the answer might be that Sky is all-in on Froome, where Movistar seem a bit more flexible in allowing lieutenants to take their shot if they have the legs. Plus even at the 2nd Giro, he had to share the Giro with Thomas.

Landa was clearly the best climber in the race and yet was kept on a short leash to his own. I doubt he would have won the tour outright (much like Froome vs Wiggins in 2012), but the 1 second on Bardet for the podium was certain if Sky had simply let him have a slightly longer leash. Hard to tell after the fact what Bardet (that poorly) and Uran (that well) were going to do in the TT, however.

Roadpainter August 1, 2017 at 11:38 pm

The 1 second for podium would also have been covered if Landa hadn’t chucked away time at end of stages 13 (2 seconds) and 17 (3)

Cepphus Grylle August 2, 2017 at 2:57 pm

And if he hadn’t have cruised over the line at the end of the TT, instead of belting it like Bardet (who, I admit, knew it was close and had Froome closing)

Trudgin August 2, 2017 at 12:23 am

Also after the stupid moto crash on road to Blockhaus.. the team went 100% behind Thomas.. Landa wasnt even mentioned in media. with full skybot backing, he’d have had a chance to make up time but it showed him how quickly they dropped him. And to be dropped for someone brailsford had decided to pull for froomes TdF . Run away Landa

John S. August 2, 2017 at 3:26 am

Landa lost 27 minutes on stage 9, while Thomas lost 5 minutes. I also recall posts by Landa on his social media showing a swollen leg, saying that he did the climb with only one leg and wasn’t sure he would continue the next day.

JT August 2, 2017 at 10:06 am

After the crash they went all in for Thomas which did make sense but it is also true that I felt Thomas was leader number 1 and Landa the backup leader.
Also after the crash, Thomas was allowed to abandon whilst Landa continued stage hunting. He then wanted to be leader on the Vuelta but was put on the TDF. The myth that he was stronger than Froome is just that, a myth. On some stages, he was stronger but he lost a lot of time despite not doing much if any work. On the Izoard, he was allowed to go for the stage win but that wasn’t working as he wasn’t making inroads into Barguil. He may have then waited for Froome but if he was stronger, he wouldn’t have lost the 10 seconds he did.

Overall, I think Landa has had chances with Sky but not 100%, Thomas receiving as much leadership as him on the Giro despite not showing as much talent would make you slightly cross but he was still a co-leader. I don’t think money would keep Landa at sky but being assured to be the sole leader on the Giro and one day on the tdf would. And if I were sky, I would do just that. Put Thomas back on the road to classics and have Froome and Landa as your GC contenders.

If Landa goes to Movistar, one can assume it is the end of Valverde’s GC ambitions on a grand tour. Seeing his age, his injury, it would make sense. So not a daft move for Landa.

RonDe August 2, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Its arguable that Geraint Thomas has shown MORE talent, not less. Check out their relative palmares. Thomas has won a number of one week stage races and a classic. That said, I wouldn’t have him as my main GC guy.

gabriele August 2, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Landa has got – and has shown, in his palmarés, too – way more GT general classification talent than Thomas. And that’s what they were supposedly having a run for.
However, it’s true that Thomas is a better cyclist in general terms.

RonDe August 2, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Thomas has only officially been the leader in one grand tour. Not the best sample size.

gabriele August 2, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Landa has shown what he got without actually being team leader. As most talented riders indeed do.

AP August 3, 2017 at 8:15 pm

This idea the Landa is some martyr whose dreams have been crushed by Evil Sky won’t survive the test of time. Landa is a pure climber who messed up in the Giro, Quintana is showing that to dominate the Tour you need more rounded ability and personality.

AP August 3, 2017 at 8:09 pm

Does Landa really care that much about the podium? In 2-3 years nobody except the hardcore few will remember who came 2nd and 3rd. He’s still young, he’s got bigger ambitions.

gabriele August 3, 2017 at 8:37 pm

Ah ah ah ah, yeah… nobody remembers Froome getting all those 2nd places here and there… sure! 😛

Or should we suppose that it’s all about hardcore fans?
Wow, Froomey’s fans are more hardcore than I ever thought!

And yet, he rode hard to get those podia; at the same time, sticking to his usual strategy (I can’t remember him risking any of them in order to try and get closer to victory or lose, as Nibali did in 2011 or as Contador tried so many times).

Truth is that podia are well remebered by generic cycling fans.

The general sport fans without any specific interest in cycling will just remember the characters who were boosted by their local media, more or less irrespective of the results.

(think how TJVG’s top-5s created a GT contender with no actual support by his palmarés; ask a French about Virenque, Pinot or Bardet – even Peraud!; look how we were told that Geraint Thomas could have a plausible evolution as a GT contender because of a mere 2nd place at the TdS…; Valverde is seen as a GT rider because of his podia, not his only Vuelta victory; Aru was already a high-profile figure on Italian media before winning the Vuelta, just podiuming at the Giro etc.; Quintana’s Tour podia are probably better known by some than his other GTs’ victories, especially if we’re speaking of generic fans).

However, Landa’s psychology is a complicated issue, I suspect.

Joe K. August 2, 2017 at 9:48 am

If Movistar does sign Landa, then it reveals more about what Unzue is thinking about Quintana rather than what it says about Landa. Perhaps Unzue has lost faith in the Colombian’s capacity to win the Big Tour–or perhaps he wants to edge his bet in the future by having one more strong climber. As for Valverde, even though he was strong this season, especially in the springtime, he was never a GC guy. And, he’s running on over-time, given his age.

Adam August 2, 2017 at 10:30 am

Indeed, perhaps Quintana has intimated that he sees his future goals at the Giro and/or Vuelta and Landa has been very outspoken that his ambitions are at the Tour.

Personally, I think Quintana will move on but I can see a situation where they split the calendar’s GC duties at Movistar.

A.V. August 3, 2017 at 12:17 am

Valverde would have win this year tour de Francia, it was a baradours course. :p

Toby August 3, 2017 at 2:02 pm

I see the move as a mid-term Quintana replacement policy. Let them co-habit for a while and see what happens with the added bonus of Valverde for a (not very surprising) surprise attack here and there.

You need one of the very best climbers (top 5ish) and a powerful climbing team to be able to negate the TT advantage that Froome (and in the longer term Dumoulin) will inevitably eek out and it doesn’t look like Movistar have that past next season. Amazingly (to me at least) Landa and Quintana are the same age, but look to be headed in opposite directions with Quintana’s attacking snap looking a bit dull.

And if nothing else, I’d love to see Landa, in his late Giro and Tour form unleashed against Sky. The more attacking the better.

Sam G August 1, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Oss to Bora is a big loss for BMC and i’m sure GVA will not be to pleased about loosing his key domestique. Interested to see who replaces him.

Richard S August 1, 2017 at 2:26 pm

To his biggest rival no less. Oss would have been a good leader in the classics for someone like UAE.

Michael B August 1, 2017 at 2:44 pm

Yeah, from working for GVA to working for Sagan seems a bit of a sideways step, especially given how awesome he looked in the closing stages of Roubaix. Still, not everyone can be a leader and we all have bills to pay.

Trudgin August 2, 2017 at 12:24 am

He’s going back to his roots with Sagan.. good buddies from liquigas – I can’t wait

StevhanTI August 1, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Not so sure about that. The consistent not so hushed rumour has it that Jurgen Roelands is going to BMC, more than a worthy replacement I’d say.

Joe K. August 2, 2017 at 9:55 am

Oss riding for Sagan in the spring classics has now more than doubled Sagan’s chances of winning the Ronde and Roubaix next year.

Adam August 2, 2017 at 10:30 am

Oss is the Boss!

Jeff August 2, 2017 at 3:10 pm

The move with the biggest classics implications so far!

Michael B August 1, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Interesting to see Warren Barguil’s name in here. Tom Dumoulin seems the most obvious threat to Froome at next year’s TdF, presuming the course isn’t too mountainous, and he’d need more climbing domestiques alongside Geschke, Ten Dam and Gesink. Barguil’s departure would presumably free up their budget for another rider or two in that position as, given his stage ambitions, Barguil seems unlikely to fit that role. Looking at that Cycling News link the likes of Michael Woods or Ian Boswell would make sense, although I’m not sure what Michael Matthews would make of all that…

Tim August 1, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Orica are going to have a similar problem in a few years. The Yates twins could obviously share leadership in a grand tour, but they also have the problem of what to do with Chaves as they all mature and improve as riders. Not a problem if some are OK with the Giro, but once everyone starts expecting tour leadership…

Michael B August 1, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Yeah, they’re very similar riders in some ways aren’t they? Chaves is maybe a little more explosive on the climbs but has less scope for improving his TTs and he’s a few years older. If there was just one Yates twin it would seem an obvious move that he’d go to Sky or BMC but the fact they’re twins makes for an interesting dynamic. Do they start ‘Team Yates’ with a new sponsor and rotate GTs between them? Or will Orica release Chaves and become Team Yates? Can Chaves even regain his old form anyway or his he a future domestique? Or do they head off and do things independently? I’d imagine Adam Yates is top Team Sky’s wanted list now that Dumoulin has committed long-term to Sunweb. Admittedly this is all through English eyes so I’ve probably more interest in the Yates than other readers from across the globe.

Mattgc August 1, 2017 at 3:39 pm

I read a while back (think it was in Inside Team Sky by David Walsh) that Dave Brailsford wanted one of the Yates (can’t remember which) but not the other, and they turned him down because he didn’t want both and went to Orica. Not certain how Simon’s TUE ban / suspension whatever it was would sit with Sky’s no previous dopers policy though.

Michael B August 1, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Yeah, my guess is that they would only sign Adam now because of the TUE issue. He’s also had the slightly better results of the two. From memory I think they’d originally only wanted to sign Simon as he had the track pedigree, although I could be wrong there.

DJW August 1, 2017 at 4:38 pm

The Orica approach will surely depend on the sponsor for 2018 and onwards. If another Australian like Orica – though formed out of British ICI, then they will be obliged to retain and support Oz talent: Ewan, Haig, Power… but in any event three top climbers and others bubbling under look too much.

Looking at GC talent who has the potential to improve substantially and who not?

Potential (of whom some probable and some speculative): Dumoulin, Yates x 2, Meintjes, Aru, Landa, Barguil, Latour, G Martin, Gaudu, Jungels, Alaphilippe, Vincent…
Near or past peak: Pinot, Bardet, Froome, Chaves?, Uran, D Martin, Quintana, Contador, Mollema, Porte, TVG…

Rondje August 2, 2017 at 12:07 pm

@DJW Bardet is of the same age as Dumoulin is, so it’s a bit early to put him near or past peak I tihink. If he starts working on his TT skills theres plenty of chances for him to improve.
I also think Haig is a potential rider. What he shown this year is pretty strong and he is still very young.

Joe K. August 2, 2017 at 10:03 am

The wisdom of Solomon dictates that the twins be split in half when the time comes. As for Chaves, unless his time trialing skills get kicked up by two or three notches, he will suffer the fate of oh so many a Colombian lightweight climber, and be relegated to the realm of the “high altitude contender, who is a GC pretender.”

RonDe August 1, 2017 at 6:51 pm

If Dumoulin is to do the Tour in 2018 and Barguil stays then he’ll be a team worker. So there will be no freelancing it going for stage wins and the mountains jersey. A couple of weeks ago the media was full of interviews with Barguil about how he loved to race. So why would he want to be just a cog in the Sunweb Dumoulin machine?

Somers August 1, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Very sad to hear about Andy Rihs. Hope he recovers soon.

Anonymous August 1, 2017 at 4:59 pm

Yeah I was sorry to read that too.

Michael B August 1, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Also, I presume with Quick Step’s long-term future being secured the likes of Niki Terpstra, Julian Alaphilippe, Bob Jungels, Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar aren’t going anywhere? If not, there’s some awesome classics talent there – with youth on their side Alaphilippe and Jungels would command huge interest.

StevhanTI August 1, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Gilbert has extended already during the Tour and Jungels has just done so. I think Alaphilippe is definite stayer as well. The others, not so sure. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Terpstra leaving with Styby it depends on his own ambitions I think.

Michael B August 1, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Thanks for that – I can see Jungels mounting a future TdF challenge if given the chance.

One Man Grupetto August 1, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Wider than the individual transfers, I find the whole concept of roster building interesting in pro-cycling. In terms of new teams, I recall Bradley Wiggins saying that it took Team Sky a few years to clear away the dead-wood (Wiggins’ words, not mine) from their initial squad and that seems to be where Bahrain-Merida are after their first year as they search for an identity. Their make-up seems a bit like the deli down the road from me which offers ‘Global tapas with a Mediterranean twist’.

Not surprised that Astana are often mentioned in rumours, they seem to be a team transitioning in identity (like Katusha this year) and a bit hamstrung by carrying 9 Kazakh riders, some very talented but not all of whom would be on WT teams otherwise, which limits GT GC support options. There was a rumour that the new DS Lars Michaelsen was tasked to try and reposition them as more of a Classics squad with a Scandinavian flavour, especially to meet some of the emerging Danish talent.

barry cameron August 1, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Peter Kennaugh is off to BORA…. let the SKY exodus start now with any luck. Only if the £££ is right of course.

Anonymous August 1, 2017 at 4:03 pm

It will be good to see Peter in a new team, seems he has become somewhat the Invisible man at his current outfit. Good luck to him I hope he excels.

Megi August 1, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Presumably Kennaugh’s not interested in challenging for TdF having chosen Peter Sagan’s team. Is he looking at the other grand tours or the big week-long stage races?

Anonymous August 1, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Why is so much talk about Kennaugh in terms of stage-racing? His skills and his palmares both point towards one-day races and stage-hunting as his best chances of success.

thesteve4761 August 2, 2017 at 8:43 am

Because he’d want to stage hunt at the TDF. Riding for Bora means he gets no space to do so in France during July.

Barry Cameron August 2, 2017 at 11:30 am

to be honest folks Peter K is not and I don’t think ever will be either a) a one day stage racer (outwith LBL and Lombardia) nor b) A GC guy who can win either 1 or 3 week races.

Peter K is a super domestique who is going to be very well paid to look after Rafa M whatever GT ‘he’ rides in…. maybe, just maybe Bora will give him leadership at a 1 week stage race but probably not if Rafa wants him in his squad to prepare for a GT…. his only other real option there is then a shot at either LBL and Lombardia…. but previous attempts don’t indicate any real promise to be honest.

Bemused August 6, 2017 at 7:31 pm

Thank you Barry! I’ve been saying the same online and on the bike – Kennaugh is by far best suited to the Ardennes and Lombardy.

He is not a super domestique, he will not win the Dauphine. I doubt Bora would include him as a stage hunter in the Tour, much less a bottle carrier for Rafal.

I actually see Amstel not LBL, and also a wet Lombardy as the races best suited to him. I’ve watched him multiple times on the track, I enjoy his compact yet fluid riding style.

Joe Saroni August 1, 2017 at 3:27 pm

The Landa talk to Movistar is the most interesting.
The move makes sense, but it also may signal that the team has lost confidence in Quintana. Having both of them would give them a real threat in all 3 grand tours, but someone will be out at the Tour. Sky appears to be suffocating riders, but provided enough cash I presume to keep them happy for a bit. Sky has enough talent, that it would be interesting if they could race an “A” squad and a “B” in a gran tour. Impossible, but fun to think about.

Ecky Thump August 1, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Merckx’s view on Quintana, post Tour, was pretty withering “…wouldn’t touch him with a barge-pole”!!

gabriele August 1, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Are you sure it was Merckx’s view? I read it on PEZ as the opinion of some internet “opinion leader” and cycling observer called “Ivan”… an unknown nickname just like us – not exactly Eddy Merckx. Besides, that commentary wasn’t at all Merckx’s style. However, I must admit that I could be wrong since I don’t have the piece at hand. Your source?

RonDe August 1, 2017 at 7:15 pm

If that was Merckx’s view its unfair. The problem wasn’t Quintana, it was Movistar management. Sending a guy to four grand tours in a row and expecting him to win every time is flogging the horse until it breaks. 3rd, 1st, 2nd and 12th isn’t bad considering their ineptitude.

Ecky Thump August 1, 2017 at 7:37 pm

I had misread the Pez article, apologies, it wasn’t Merckx.

gabriele August 2, 2017 at 1:04 pm

What Merckx reportedly said according to the PEZ article was:

Interviewer: “You didn’t find it an exciting Tour – not even in the last week?”
Merckx: “No. What happened in the last week? Barguil went after the mountain jersey because he was leader in the competition. I think he was just after the mountain classification. He won it by being first over the big climbs. Matthews has also ridden a good Tour – two stage wins and the green jersey too. It’s a pity that Kittel wasn’t there of course.
And the rest? If you watched the TV in the first week, you only needed to see the last ten kilometers. I’ve seen all the Stages. Some have been interesting, but not so that I sat in front of the tele for six hours. It wasn’t a ‘Grand Cru’.”

Well, Eddy, what can I say? … +1, man 😛

hoh August 1, 2017 at 9:04 pm

Still puzzles me as to whose brilliant idea it is to do 4 grand tours in a row. I thought it was a Moviestar blunder but some seemed to suggest that Quintana convinced the team to let him try the double.

gabriele August 1, 2017 at 11:10 pm

Apparently, it was Nairo who insisted from Colombia while Unzué, in Spain, was still expressing doubts. Then again, I was puzzled myself reading about Nairo’s father complaints directed against Movistar and Unzué.

From the Spanish version of Luis Quintana’s declarations, anyway, it looks like that he thought that his son shouldn’t have done the Tour once he did the Giro, or that he shouldn’t have done the Giro if the team wanted him to try the Tour, too. Moreover, he says that the whole team seemed to be lacking serious preparation towards the Tour (“It looks like they brought their cyclists to the Tour as if it was a training”). “They sacrificed Nairo because of their lack of organisation”.
On the one hand, I wouldn’t bet that just being the father of a champion makes you an outright expert of professional cycling; OTOH, it’s true that at the Tour not only Nairo but the whole Movistar looked like quite below their own standard, just as they looked pretty much confused at the Giro (tough, it’s clear that the main problem was Nairo’s post-Giro form, while I believe that in May, things as they were, he’d have won any classic Giro even if he wasn’t at his all time best).

Doing 4 GTs in a row in itself is hard but not crazy. Sastre did it several times in his career and collected a number of fine results in the process. It’s true that he had some of his best results when he was “rested”, but his first ever top ten at the Tour came as “the fourth GT in a row”. His first TdF “podium or so” (Landis…) came in the “third GT in a row of four” (and he’d go on to get a final GC 4th place in the following Vuelta). He got his best result at the Giro as the third GT in a row.
Valverde recently made it, starting with the 2015 TdF, and got 4 convincing top-tens (3-7-3-6).
Kreuziger got some of his best results ever in a series of 4 GTs in a row, especially in the Giro which was the 3rd GT, although he admittedly was quite much spent in the fourth GT (the Tour).
Menchov got some of his best result in a series of 4 GTs in a row, although he didn’t finish the first one – yet, he had raced some 17 stages, even if in poor form, hence I’d frankly count it.
Purito did a curious combo in 2013-2014: he *started* 5 GTs in a row (but he had to quit the Giro after 7 stages because the awful Montecassino crash).
Virenque did sort of a series of 4 in 1998-1999 and got his best result for that couple of years in the *fourth* GT in a row (the TdF). There had been the Festina scandal in the while, but that doesn’t change anything about his efforts – one might even suppose that he had to be more *prudent* than before.
Sure, he wasn’t performing as in 1996-1997, yet the final 8th place wasn’t really that different from his usual level (yes, it was slightly below his standard, but not hugely – perhaps he lacked a bit of explosive power, if anything).

Obviously, we don’t have a lot of examples because the current situation of the calendar only exists since 1995…

This is not an exhaustive list, I checked some candidates whom I considered plausible, but you’d need to look for riders one by one to get a full picture (and I’m not going to do that).

The sample says that 4 GTs in a row is for few riders. Most GC riders simply *avoid* doing more than three in a row (which, OTOH, is way less uncommon).
Because of that, we lack real information about the effect on performance, even if it sure looks like a complicated feat to undertake.
Maybe it’s something worth trying once, in order to know if you are among those able to tackle that combination or not. All the same, I’d be worried about possible long term and/or not reversible effects on your body and thus future performances.

hoh August 2, 2017 at 3:26 am

It’s true that a few riders as you listed, performs well 3-4 GTs in a row. However, it is fair to say that most of those you picked as examples (in modern times at the least) are podium outsiders rather than contenders let along genuine contenders for the win.

I wonder how the likes of Merckx & Hinault fared 4 in a row or they even tried?

I suppose the question with Quintana is whether he truly believe he could have done the double or the Giro attempt was a nice distraction. I suppose the biggest fight he had with Froome was in 2015.

Eskerrik Asko August 2, 2017 at 9:49 am

Well there are always more podium outsiders than contenders or genuine contenders for a win, so purely statistically most of the four-GTs-in-a-row riders should be podium outsiders:-)

FWIW I’m probably even less of an expert at managing a WT team or at planning a GT contender’s race season than Nairo’s father, but IMHO it would have been wiser to stop, listen and re-think after the Giro and the clear and obvious – at least in hindsight:-) – signs that everything had not gone even close enough to the plan for Nairo. Maybe set the sights on the Vuelta and let Valverde have the sole and uncontested captaincy in the Tour?
But maybe it was discussed and proposed, but Quintana – who by all accounts is a strong-willed, determined and ambitious character in a manner that sets him apart even from many other elite athletes – wouldn’t have any of it?

PS Warren Barguil’s much speculated move tops the list of highly awaited hot news for me, too. Where can he get a team that would be as strong behind him as his current one? Those teams that obviously could already have a GT captain or have as good as already signed one?
PPS I think I know where all those Dutch Dylans got their names, but why did Barguil’s parents name him Warren? Were English names popular or fashionable in France at the time or is it something that was used as a mark of social distinction in some circles or what? (I hope it wasn’t anything to do with a Warren Beatty film…)

Ecky Thump August 2, 2017 at 10:16 am
gabriele August 2, 2017 at 12:16 pm

@hoh
While I agree, as I did above, that most GC riders (whatever their level) will avoid having 4 GTs in a row – and truth is that it may just be happening “naturally”, without thinking too much about that (the leading concept in cycling is “the yearly season”) – yet, I don’t agree about the characteristics of the sample.
Sastre wasn’t up there by chance, when he grabbed his opportunity and won a Tour, even if it was the kind of rider who gets underestimated and easily ends up working as a luxury gregario (without entering the whole discussion about doping…); Menchov didn’t ultimately win the Tour but he started it to win, as a legitimate top contender for the win, being without doubt one of the best GT riders of that period. Virenque and Valverde are more like podium material, even if the French press and the Spanish team probably hoped for more.
Add to that that other absolute top GT riders (Evans, Basso, Contador) got 3 GTs in a row…

I think that you might be right saying that 4 GTs in a row is uncharted and dangerous territory, but your point about the “genuine contenders” is quite moot because it reduces the sample so much (if you exclude the likes of Menchov or Sastre!) that any logical induction stops making sense and you’re left with the personal attitudes and physical characteristics of any single rider. Besides, doing 4 GTs in a row often doesn’t happen for any sort of external reason, which makes a reduction of the sample even more meaningless.

As I said above, historical references are complicated by the fact that the Vuelta was being raced in a different calendar spot until 1995: it was April/May.
However, just for the stats, Merckx did 4 GTs in a row in 1972-73 and won them all. Gimondi did the 4 GTs series in 1967-1968: he won a Giro and a Vuelta, was 7th at the Tour and 3rd again at the Giro.
Hinault “only” had 3 in a row and won them all.
Tarangu made 4 in a row (8-3-1-5).
Perico Delgado made it 3 in a row and won the last two (Tour and Vuelta).
Zülle *started* some 8 GTs in a row, even if with several DNF and often in early stages.

haps August 1, 2017 at 4:04 pm

The Landa to Moviestar rumour has been going in Spain since even before the Tour.
Landa seems like the one that could push Froome in the mountains, so lets hope for that.

I would agree that you have a point about the suffocating arguments, all-tough they got something right with Kwia this year?

I personally think that this was froomes last Tour(de france) victory with both Mikkels off they would need some mountain support I would argue.

Best

RonDe August 1, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Which riders is Sky “suffocating” and which of them hasn’t been given a fair crack of the whip? This will be a matter of conjecture of course and we also don’t know what riders were told when they were signed. But given they have the pre-eminent grand tour rider of the last few years on their books which other rider on their books would imagine they get priority there? In other races, one week tours and one dayers, they’ve given plenty of guys their head. Need I mention Geraint Thomas’s several wins, Wout Poels’s LBL win, Sergio Henao taking Paris-Nice and Kwiato with several high profile wins this year? This does not strike me as a team saving all the big prizes for one or two guys. Imagine being at Movistar: what Valverde doesn’t snap up for himself gets left for Quintana. By comparison Sky are spreading the love around.

gabriele August 1, 2017 at 8:07 pm

I share your general point: rather than “suffocating” riders, Sky’s method, if anything, doesn’t work with some athletes – and more often than not there’s no counterproof it was actually about the team and not about some intrinsic limits of the rider.
Some riders, however, weren’t making the right choice staying at Sky, IMHO, even if they’re less than the commonplace thinking may lead us to think: for example, I believe that Boasson Hagen should have gone away ASAP (personal opinion), and when he did it was probably too late. Dombrowski’s case wasn’t the team’s fault – maybe – but he didn’t have a good time in Sky; speaking of USA riders, we’ll see what about Boswell.
I expected more from both Kennaugh and Swift, but, again, I’m not sure it’s about the team or their actual potential.
I’d tend to think that’s about prep style and individual athletic qualities, not about clipping wings to any talented rider.

That said, you’re being unfair towards Movistar. The comparison should involve riders of a comparable level, if you wanted it to really make sense. And since the huge budget difference, it’s just self-evident that Movistar won’t have as many winning horses as Sky can display, even less so if we take into account the level of the races we might be speaking about.
This season Movistar gave freedom to Gorka Izagirre during a Giro whose GC they were trying to win and supported him as the leader in a semiclassics like Amorebieta. I’d dare to say that his winning abilities don’t go much further than GT stages and semiclassics. Izagirre and Soler got their chances last year as did Intxausti or Rui Costa in a further past. Besides their top dogs, Movistar barely has any Thomas or Henao, not to speak of any Kwiatkowski.
Yet, you can see them – Valverde or Quintana included – really going all out for their “gregari” in several races (well, not GTs or Monuments, I’ll concede that: but has Movistar any other rider capable to give a shoot to those targets?).

Maybe one should think about the kind of support those *other* Sky riders are given: are they receiving full team support “the (TdF) Sky way” – or sort of – , or are they left getting the best of their own qualities? Not a rhetorical question, and I myself can recall examples for both kind of situations.
I should add that I think that Sky’s attitude changed over time (and their declaration season after season underline that aspect, too).

Carbo August 1, 2017 at 11:09 pm

The point is not that Sky are treating certain riders unfairly or give them too few opportunities for their likely position in the pecking order. It’s that for another team, they could be top of the pecking order, with entire structures and seasons built around them — whether classics or Grand Tours — or perhaps in a system that doesn’t need a train of disciplined, high power domestiques to help an obvious GC leader, therefore freeing them to go race for stages.

Richard S August 1, 2017 at 11:44 pm

But given that Movistar have the pre-eminent one week stage race and hilly classics rider of the last few years on their books which other rider on their books would imagine that they get priority there?

Augie March August 1, 2017 at 4:30 pm

“Sky make him an offer he can’t refuse” – I doubt Don Brailsford would thank you for the Godfather reference but it does some apt given his imperious nature.

Call me Jane August 1, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Brailsford is crazy to let Landa go! He was not just the strongest climber at the Tour but his performance at La Classica was pure class. Obviously a team player despite his future employment options. Brailsford could find enough cash to keep him by pulling up Murdoch couch cushions.

Megi August 1, 2017 at 6:55 pm

In the end it’s the rider’s choice and not everyone is motivated solely by money. Landa is Basque and may feel more at home in the Spanish cultre of Movistar than in the English culture of Team Sky.
Incidentally, he’s just won the Vuelta a Burgos opening stage.

ebbe August 1, 2017 at 7:07 pm

The interesting question to ask is: Why exactly is Landa behaving as a team player?

Is it because he’s just a nice guy who really doesn’t mind giving up his own chances to help his team mates? Is it because he’s insecure about his own abilities to win, to be a ‘killer/finisher’? Is it because he is (was) hoping for a (more) lucrative contract extension at Sky if he behaves? Is it because he knows he already has a contract at Movistar (or another team), and he’ll have his revenge next year? Is it because he has a strict team order compliance clause* in his contract, and won’t get paid if he (repeatedly) ignores team orders? Or any combination of the above?

*On such a compliance clause: A comment Servais Knaven made on Dutch TV would suggest so. When asked if Landa-Froome reminds of Froome-Wiggins, he said (I paraphrase): “Yes, I see that too. That wasn’t a good situation back then. We’ve taken measures to prevent such a situation from happening again.”

Meh August 2, 2017 at 2:08 am

It’s either this conspiracy theory born from illusion or the fact that the “strongest climber at the Tour” had already lost over 3 minutes on a variety of climbs with barely any work on the front by the time of his purported-but-never-realized “strongest climbing”.

Eskerrik Asko August 2, 2017 at 10:49 am

Unfortunately you cannot just watch the race and add up the minutes of the work on the front to gauge the effects of being the captain’s super-domestique had on Landa’s result on those stages. Some of the workload wasn’t obvious and apparent, sometimes he had to slow down when going faster would have suited his characteristics and the tactical situation better, etc.
I wouldn’t make any claims or calculate any what-if results, I’m just pointing out that it perhaps isn’t so simple that we can glibly talk about alleged conspiracy theories and illusions.

Strictly Amateur / The GCW August 2, 2017 at 4:53 am

Quoted from INRNG, “Similarly if Mikel Landa goes to Movistar then will Nairo Quintana stay? L’Equipe today links the Colombian to Team Sky but if Landa is leaving because he wants leadership why would Quintana join?”

A few things. Would Quintana fit in Sky? If successful riders are able to demand more in a contract, is Quintana (@ 12th place) now not able??? Would Sky be looking at Q for a super-domestique? Would Sky’s mountain-train work / be good and successful for Q?

I don’t view Sky good for Q.

-0-

Rigoberto Uran: I hope His best interest is achieved. Still young. Could go either way it seems depending on many aspects.
Look forward to seeing Him on August 11, climbing Moonstone.

Johnny P August 2, 2017 at 6:17 am

Any thoughts on Gerrans? Left off Tour team and rumored to be going elsewhere…..

Tom August 2, 2017 at 1:13 pm

So…Barguil to Fortuneo–Oscaro then…

John August 2, 2017 at 1:52 pm

If it gives him the freedom to continue his attacking style, they get some better support riders and secure wildcards to non-French races – it could end up being a good move.

I’d worry that, with the big investment in him, a TDF GC challenge would be expected which probably isn’t the best use of his talents.

Richard S August 2, 2017 at 2:48 pm

I’m guessing with the new mini-Virenque and house wives of France’s favourite on their team they’ll be able to secure some more investment and build a bit of a better team. I was hoping Cofidis would cut their losses with Bouhanni and use his exorbitant wages to get Barguil and some help.

Christopher N August 3, 2017 at 8:58 pm

Serious question. Why isn’t the idea of Landa going back to Astana being discussed at all? Was that relationship burned? We keep debating the complexity of fitting pieces together at Movistar when Astana are a strong team with no GC leader.

Bemused August 6, 2017 at 7:12 pm

That really worked out well for Froome on more than one level – finishing that close behind Bardet meant the crowd were confused. Hard to boo and cheer simultaneously!

hoh August 1, 2017 at 8:57 pm

The thing with Quintana is that he’s been on the scene for so long, people thought him to be older. Yet, he’s only 27.

Michael B August 2, 2017 at 12:07 am

I still think Quintana will win more Giros/Vueltas and I could even see him taking a TdF once Froome is finished, if there aren’t many TT miles. That’s a big if though with Dumoulin lurking. NQ’s still young, at least another 4/5 years if he doesn’t burn out.

BenW August 2, 2017 at 2:01 pm

He’s also the oldest-looking 27 year old I’ve ever seen. And that includes notorious African footballers.

Eskerrik Asko August 2, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Are your really saying that in your opinion Quintana is older than it says on his passport – or did you just accidentally put two and two together so that your reader cannot help but infer that’s what you said?
IMHO he is just one of those guys who have a face that is “sculpted with an axe” (which is not to say that he is ugly) and he has always looked quite a bit older than his age and that he has in a way looked more like an adult than a child since he was six or seven years old. More common where and when life is often hard and seriousness either comes naturally or is very high on the list of necessary virtues.

PS Thanks Ecky Thump! A charming little story – and a perfectly good and understandable explanation!

PPS Fortuneo-Oscaro! Well, that’s one wild card taken in next year’s TdF, that’s for sure! At least a way more sympathetic team than Cofidis if I may say so. But I don’t think I’m the only one who has his doubts about the wisdom and who must wait until the 2018 roster is presented.

BenW August 2, 2017 at 5:11 pm

If this is aimed at me, then nope! I’m not seriously suggesting he’s older than the years on his passport, merely the same sort of observation you had (though sadly without such an excellent phrase as “sculpted with an axe”). I was just attempting a “wry aside” as it were, by mentioning the footballers (as that’s an interesting story in itself.) Text is terrible for tone, isn’t it?

For the record, I’m 31 and still routinely ID’d under the “Challenge 25” scheme where if you don’t look at least 25 they’ll ID you buying booze. Even with a full winter beard. So I’m at the other end of the scale…

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