Big Wins and Slow Transfers

Whilst there are several races on right now it still feels like there’s a lull so it provides a moment to look at an updated version of the team victory rankings for this year and also to take stock of the transfer market which looks quieter than usual.

Will teams instead spend money on hiring staff in a bid to mimic Team Sky?

As the chart shows, Team Sky top the tables for outright wins but only just. Instead perhaps the story is how the top three teams seem to dominate, with over one third of wins by UCI Pro Teams coming from these three. Meanwhile at the foot of the table we see Ag2r and Saxo languish but I suspect the latter team will win in the upcoming Vuelta a Espana.

Both Saxo and Ag2r have taken steps to remedy their loss. Saxo now has Tinkoff Bank as a co-sponsor and plenty of financial firepower from maverick Russian entrepreneur (and keen cyclist) Oleg Tinkov. Ag2r don’t have much more money but they are hiring more riders capable of winning, like Davide Appollonio, Carlos Betancur and most recently Samuel Dumoulin, although it’s a cosy deal for Dumoulin as team boss Vincent Lavenu is also Dumoulin’s father in law.

Overall though the transfer season looks a bit sleepy so far. The big increase in rider wages in recent years means being an agent is a lucrative business but so far 2012 doesn’t look like a vintage year for fees. Here’s the top-20 riders on the IG Pro Cycling Index.

1 GBR Wiggins Bradley Sky Procycling 5259
2 SVK Sagan Peter Liquigas – Cannondale 4328
3 ESP Rodriguez Oliver Joaquin Katusha Team 4320
4 BEL Boonen Tom Omega Pharma-Quickstep 4267
5 GBR Cavendish Mark Sky Procycling 3228
6 ITA Nibali Vincenzo Liquigas – Cannondale 2977
7 NOR Boasson Hagen Edvald Sky Procycling 2625
8 BEL Gilbert Philippe BMC Racing Team 2407
9 GBR Froome Chris Sky Procycling 2372
10 GER Greipel André Lotto – Belisol 2262
11 SUI Cancellara Fabian Radioshack-Nissan 2245
12 AUS Gerrans Simon Orica Greenedge 2135
13 BEL Van Avermaet Greg BMC Racing Team 2107
14 ESP Moreno Fernandez Daniel Katusha Team 2082
15 GER Martin Tony Omega Pharma-Quickstep 2075
16 FRA Voeckler Thomas Team Europcar 1983
17 POR Costa Rui Movistar Team 1904
18 ESP Sanchez Gonzalez Samuel Euskaltel – Euskadi 1862
19 ITA Moser Moreno Liquigas – Cannondale 1793
20 CAN Hesjedal Ryder Garmin – Sharp 1781

Amongst these 20 riders few are changing teams over the winter. Vincenzo Nibali is moving to Astana. Otherwise we get speculation that Mark Cavendish is supposed to be thinking about his future at Sky or Omega Pharma – Quickstep and Fabian Cancellara could move, either returning to Bjarne Riis and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff or just possibly the new Swiss team IAM.

When several important riders move it forces other teams to respond but this time it seems there’s little change. Vultures are circling over the wounded carcass that is the Radioshack-Nissan team but it seems most recruitment here will be to strengthen existing teams.

Liquigas seem to be a depleted team. After Nibali leaving and taking some helpers, we’ve also heard that Daniel Oss and Dominik Nerz are going to BMC Racing. Now Sylwester Szmyd has said he is leaving but won’t reveal where; if you want to guess then he’s offering a t-shirt three people who offer the correct answer via his blog. Of course having Sagan with the team means that the squad doesn’t need many other riders, plus the Italian team has Ivan Basso and promising stage race rider Eros Capecchi.

We can only speculate about Mark Cavendish’s future. Clearly Team Sky can win a lot but they can’t offer him the dedicated sprint train he must want and whilst it is good to see a world champion carrying water bottles for the yellow jersey for the way it underlines team work, it’s not something you expect Cavendish wants to do very often. A move to Omega Pharma – Quickstep is possible but he could stay, knowing he might have support in many races and besides, Team Sky still need a sprinter or two. Would the Belgian team have to buy Cavendish out of the contract or would Sky agree to a friendly departure? There’s plenty to think about for fans, teams, agents and of course, Cavendish but for now OPQS team boss Patrick Lefevere has said Cavendish is “too expensive”. Then again this is the ideal start to negotiations, no?

Of course there’s still plenty of time for more deals to happen. It’s just that with most of the identifiable grand tour winners staying put and the big classics contenders doing the same there’s not much more happening. Barring a total implosion at Radioshack, the story of rider transfers looks like one of selective acquisitions by teams and a few riders searching for new opportunities.

I wonder whether squads will instead be thinking about hiring coaches, support staff and other technicians as they think about copying Team Sky and its focus on process and outcome rather than just hiring big names? Arguably Team Sky owe their lead in the victory rankings to the signing of Mark Cavendish but also the results of Bradley Wiggins and others on the team are notable for their value when expressed in terms of publicity against salary.

42 thoughts on “Big Wins and Slow Transfers”

  1. So you reckon Contador is a dead cert for the Vuelta? Should be an interesting one, especially as it will be shown in UK on ITV4 (I’ve not broken this joyous news to my wife yet…)

    Cav has been talking recently about riding on the track in Rio2016 and Team Sky would be ideal team to support this. Can’t see OPQS being too keen to take him on but release him for track events, though it is a fair way off yet. Dave Brailsford did say that Cav was free to leave, but not sure what “free” means!

    • No, I don’t think he’s a certainty for the Vuelta. A strong pick of course but we have not seen him climbing yet.

      Cavendish is one of the few Brits not to win an Olympic medal. When the plane took off from Beijing in 2008 the whole track cycling team was seated in first class except Cavendish because only medal winners got upgraded. I wonder how much he wants to win a medal, he’s done plenty on the road but can still improve.

    • My wife also ‘loves’ cycling. If you live near Swindon perhaps they could form a self-help group.

      Cav should go to the team most able to assist him with TdF stage wins. Nothing will cement his place in history like beating Merckx record for TdF stage wins. I just don’t see what else would stand up to that. Winning the Green Jersey will be nigh on impossible with Sagan on the scene.

      I’m not sure it would affect Tony Martin too much if Cavendish joined OPQS. Sure he’d have to do the lead-out but he still shapes as an unconvincing GC contender. Getting back to being the worlds best time-triallist and taking some of the more time-trial based stage races are probably more realistic goals for Martin.

      Who from the UK domestic scene is likely to make it onto the pro-tour next season? Jonathan Tiernan-Locke as a minimum deserves a shot at pro-continental level and Scott Thwaites has had a good season. Any others likely to follow?

  2. Hmmm…Boonen and Cav on the same team? Obviously Boonen has switched his focus from pure sprints, but how would that work in the spring? Of course, OPQS is sorely lacking results in the grand tours, and having a sprinter contest stages and the points jersey, rather than a middling stage racer who struggles to reach the top ten would be an improvement.

      • Honestly, I think all three of them can coexist well. Martin may shape into a week-long GC contender in the mold of Mick Rogers, but he’ll never win a Tour de France and foolish is the team that banks on him doing so. Meanwhile, Boonen has re-solidified himself as the top cobbles man in the world, and Cavendish has shown little interest in developing the strength need to win in Flanders or Roubaix.

        If Boonen wants to win stages in the Tour, Cav would block his way–but if Cav isn’t on OPQ, he’s going to be beating Boonen on some other team anyway. There’s no real conflict here. And Martin is only an obstacle to Cav if he wants to get full-team GC support like Wiggins has, something a climber of his limited skill does not merit and something that Quickstep management has never provided for any rider in a GT. If OPQ wants to win the Tour, Martin will be a domestique to the leader at best. If Martin wants to win 1-week stage races, Cavendish can be sent to the alternative races that are inevitably running at the same time.

        Cav would round out the OPQ lineup perfectly, giving them guaranteed stage wins in at least two of the three major tours without stepping on Boonen’s toes in the classics. The convenience of the situation is obvious when you contrast it with BMC, which spends big money but winds up with guys like Hushovd and Gilbert having similar goals (Flanders, San Remo, etc) and neither getting featured in the Tour because there are real climbers like Evans and Van Garderen.

        • OPQS had an awesome year. As a Belgian team, could they have done better than having a Belgian dominate the classics? Sure, I suppose a few stage wins in the Tour would have helped worldwide, but in Belgium do their sponsors care or is it all about the Classics?

  3. Moreno Moser will also be on Liquigas-Cannondale (or whatever it will be called) for 2013, no? I wonder how Nibali will do at Astana, I hate to see Italian cycling lose another of their big stars to a foreign team while Giovanni Visconti has been pretty invisible over at Movistar. I find it hard to believe a whole lot of money will be spent by other teams trying to emulate SKY with the “process and outcome” blather. It’s always tough to beat the “can’t beat ’em? Buy ’em!” strategy unless you have the large budget (and the smarts of knowing who to buy) to compete, which to me is as much a reason for SKY’s 2012 success as any. Will those they bought to ride in service of Wiggo be content to do only that? For now long? Just as the team of BigTex found, eventually these guys decide it’s THEY who should do the winning and they leave, even if they have to take a pay cut to do so. Can SKY find replacements when/if they do?

  4. Any chance Cav goes to OGE?

    It’d be a) hard to keep Goss happy under those circumstances, and b) it’d mean the star rider in the team isn’t an Aussie, but the most sprint-focused team and the world’s best sprinter sound like a decent match in other ways.

    • Nah. Too much money, not enough product. As we’ve seen with groups like Sky, it takes teams a while to gel and find their form–I expect Goss and OGE to start getting solid results very soon.

      OGE would be more likely to go after Evans, who may no longer be a key cog at BMC now that they have TVG to build around.

  5. Inrng, or anyone,

    I must say I am surprised by the Daniel Oss move to BMC.

    Some people said that Cadel Evans had brought a classics team to Le Tour de France and that was part of the problem (apart from his poor physical shape). Evans did not have a team that could help him in the mountains.

    Daniel Oss is a strong man, often working for Peter Sagan. What will he do in BMC? Lead out Cadel Evans???

    enlighten me…

    • Maybe Oss is part of the planned lead out for Hushovd or for that other bloke that used to win everything (what’s his name again? Phil-something?)…?

      • I don’t get the Oss move either. I suppose from Oss’s perspective it’s big bucks, but what’s the strategy to put a winning team on the road? Although I like Oss as part of a youth movement with TVG & Phinney. Personally, not expecting anything from Thor any longer after this year’s performance.
        It seems like the BMC management team was trained by the front office of the Chicago Bears. My beloved Bears tended to make boneheaded moves that never panned out in the name of taking the “best player available”, rather than building a team from the ground up. Of course, they were also notoriously cheap which can’t be said of BMC Racing.

  6. What happens at Garmin Sharp? Will VandeVelde call it a day. Millar is getting a bit senior as well. Feeling a bit sorry for Farrar having quite a bit of bad luck. Also, he did not have his go to lead out Julian Dean this season. Maybe one huge win a year will suffice. Last year was Paris Roubaix, this Giro D’Italia. Is the Sharp sponsorship a big injection to hire bigger names? Inquiring minds.

  7. Millar was talking about riding for long enough for his young son to remember him riding, that’s another 3-4 years. It may have been post tour stage win euphoria though.

    In much the same way I’m sure Cav’s ‘returning to the track’ comments need to be taken with a large pinch of home olympics salt.

  8. One does wonder when teams will catch on to the benefits of proper performance management of riders on their roster, rather than the ad hoc approach by most. I’d certainly love to help the right team out, but some are too tainted (doping history) to consider touching them with the proverbial 40-foot pole.

  9. Surely the only reason there could be for Cavendish to be at Sky was to have a shot at the Olympic Gold for the road race. The benefits of Team Sky/GB setup were so obvious that it was a no brainer (note the many times Chris Boardman referred to ‘Team Sky’ during the UK commentary on the Olympic road race).

    The lure of ‘The Olympic Medal for Cav’ (and the stories from Bejing so some way to illustrate how much not having one matters) lead to the unusual sight of the Rainbow Jersey carrying bottles and to the Charge of the Lightning Brigade approach adopted by Wiggo/Yogi/Millar and Froome and I think shows that David Brailsford (along with the rest of the team) had fixated to the loss of all sense on Gold for Cav at all costs. This of course mean’t the outcome we saw was inevitable.

    Stannard / Wiggo / Millar were all capable of winning a medal for GB but there was of course a debt to be paid to Cav and it could only be paid in Olympic Gold. If we see Cav in Rio at all it may well be on the track

    Cav will likely leave Sky.

    JTL has stated openly that he aspires to eat at the top table and if Endura don’t get promoted he will take up one of the no doubt many offers he has. The only thing that connects him to Sky is his british passport, I suspect that he has greater ambitions than domestique to Wiggins

  10. Regarding Liquigas, Velochrono ( describes Capecchi as ‘certain to leave in the autumn’. Not sure of their sources, but they seem pretty certain. Maybe Liquigas will look to some of the smaller teams for new recruits, or re-sign Pelizotti?

    It does seem as if there’s a huge, GC-sized hole in their 2013 squad. I can’t imagine they’ll go to the Giro with Basso as their main man. And they definitely won’t go with no realistic GC hope, so they will have to sign someone.

  11. Clearly a little biased here, and I know Goss would hit the roof if it happened, but is Green Edge not an option?

    Understandably you would upset your number 1 sprinter, however it’s not every day a rider of Cav’s ilk is on the market…

  12. I wonder if a lot of the “tranquility” in this transfer season has to do with the struggling global economy. Most riders may be content to not rock their own boats? Not a lot of dumb money floating around for next year? Perhaps this is especially true considering the pending firestorm of negative mainstream press that cycling will suffer after the USADA proceedings conclude…but that too shall pass.

    • I think there is a lot more to it, than the failing economy. The teams have their money in the bank and are ready. There is a lot of finaliced contracts lying aroung, just waiting to be announced.

      Rider don’t want it because the same thing could happen to them as what happend to Jakob Fuglsang and Roman Kreuziger. They told their team “I’m leaving at the end of the season” and boom they where both relegated to minor races.

      Team don’t like riders that are leaving to earn WT points, that would only counbt for the new team.

      Fuglsang was snubbed just before TDF and his place given to Chris Horner. Fuglsang went to Austria and won the Tour of Austria. Kreuziger was on the shortlist at Astana for the Vuelta, but was removed a little more than 2 weeks before the start.

  13. if they could get fabian going back to saxo… next year they could be the all dominating team (with a couple more solid domestiques of course). contador probably back at the tour and fuglsang probably getting his big chance with giro and vuelta so another extremely well timed move by mr tinkoff

    no news about the rumoured german team? and the little shleck being bought out of his contract and taking a heap of riders with him (aaaagain)

    feel sorry for liquigas though, sticking all their eggs in the sagan basket… 1 piece of bad luck and it could ruin them for a whole year, and that’s assuming he will keep winning like he is (phil gil couldn’t keep it up… just saying)

    i hope after the end of the season you do a piece on the likelyhood of next seasons break through riders and who might be the top dogs 🙂

  14. I agree with Simma i think Saxo bank are the comming team they’ve already signed Fuglsang and Nico Roche a sure sign there bolstering there options and firepower for the inevitable battles to come with Sky at the grand tours.
    In this modern era of engineered bike racing its now not enough to have a stand out GC rider (eg Contador). To win today i.e. beat Sky you will need an array of tactics at your disposal , proven riders which can allow you to vary your attacks so as to force Team Sky from there pre-determined race tactics.

    • Fuglsang says he’s no longer negotiating with Saxo. It’ll either be OPQS or Astana. Most likely OPQS, according to Danish media.

  15. “Stinkoff” could be a force with Contador back along with Bjarne’s other new signings…and he might end up with some more of his former boyz if RadioSchleck implodes. Maybe the only squad to really challenge SKY?

    • Contador will easily beat Sky’s riders in the Grand Tours as long as the course isn’t as ridiculously pandering as this year’s edition was.

  16. Also what on earth is that IG Index? Moser ahead of Hesjedal?! Boasson Hagen, Gerrans, Van Avermaet and Moreno are ridiculously high for some reason too.

    CQRanking is a much more sensible ranking system.

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