Mikel Nieve leaves Sky for Orica-Scott in the most high-profile roster move in this transfer season.
The transfer market continues to buzz along. In what many expected to be a relatively quiet transfer season — in a year without any new major teams or closures — it is turning out to be quite active.
Why? Teams are jostling to shore up their domestique ranks and cherry pick top talent when it’s available.
Three more major moves were confirmed Thursday. Omar Fraile, the two-time Vuelta a España king of the mountains, changes from Dimension Data to Astana. Alberto Bettiol, the promising Italian talent, slides over from Cannondale-Drapac to BMC Racing. And the big one, Mikel Nieve, one of Sky’s most reliable workers, joins Orica-Scott for two years.
The 33-year-old Spanish climber brings experience and depth to the growing GC ambitions at Orica-Scott, which continues its shift toward grand tour racing with Esteban Chaves and Adam and Simon Yates.
“I would like to help the team to get more important victories, and be a part of it,” Nieve said. “I would like to be important on mountain stages, and being close to those three guys to give them a hand.”
Nieve is incredibly durable and will help Orica’s young leaders in decisive moments. In 13 grand tour starts he’s never finished worse than 25th, and he’s always managed to finish in the top 20 in all the Tours de France he’s started even while riding in a support role. Nieve joined Team Sky in 2014 and helped Chris Froome win his past two yellow jerseys.
“Signing Nieve is bolstering the armada we are building in backing up our young GC riders,” said Orica-Scott sport director Matt White. “Last year we could add Roman Kreuziger, and now Mikel comes with the same level of experience. They have both been part of teams that have won the biggest races in the world, and he is certainly going to be of great value to our GC trio.”
BMC Racing tapped the 23-year-old budding classics star Bettiol to help bolster its one-day racing program. The team did not reveal the length of the contract.
“Bettiol may be only 23 years old, but he has been on the WorldTour a few years now,” said BMC Racing general manager Jim Ochowicz. “Alberto has a diverse set of racing skills and we are looking forward to helping him grow with BMC Racing Team when it comes to the classics and time trials, which I think will be a natural progression for him.”
In the day’s other major transfer, Spanish climber Fraile joins Astana on a two-year deal. With the departure of Vincenzo Nibali last year and the rumors that Fabio Aru might be leaving, Astana is adding some GC-type riders to its roster. Fraile is a versatile rider who can ride in support at the major tours, as well as hunt his own victories.
“Omar is a very strong climber who can be a good addition to our team in the grand tours,” said Astana general manager Alexander Vinokourov. “He can do well in any kind of climbs, but he could also be a strong part of the team in the team time trial. Fraile will be able to fully reach his potential in our team.”
In other transfer news:
Tony Gallopin moves from Lotto-Soudal to Ag2r-La Mondiale for two years.
Movistar signed promising Spanish climber Jaime Rosón from Caja Rural for two seasons.
Nicholas Dliamini, a 21-year-old black South African, joined Dimension Data as a stagiaire for the remainder of 2017 and will join the WorldTour team in 2018.