Season end sees several top names without contracts
FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The 2019 season is nearing its end, and with the 2020 WorldTour season around the corner, there remains uncertainty about the future of several top cyclists.
Riders like Taylor Phinney (EF Education First), Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida), and Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) have yet to confirm their plans for 2020. Others like Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) are linked to teams (Bahrain-Merida) that have yet to announce the deals.
Taylor Phinney (EF Education First)
Phinney has been racing varied events in the U.S. including the Dirty Kanza and the Leadville Trail 100 alongside amateurs, but has done little at the top level since the cobbled classics this April in Northern Europe.
After the Tour of California in May and the RideLondon-Surrey Classic in August, he is due to close his 2019 season at the Japan Cup. EF Education First have yet to say if he will be in its 2020 roster that includes Rigoberto Urán and new arrival Neilson Powless (from Jumbo-Visma).
It has not been an easy road for Phinney. The twice Under 23 Paris-Roubaix winner broke his leg in 2014 racing the US national road race. He returned and won a stage in the USA Pro Challenge, but has been held back by various issues. This year, he was dealing with knee problems in the classics.
Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida)
Despite winning the world championship title in the time trial last month, Australian Dennis has no job yet for 2020. He was due to continue to ride for Team Bahrain-Merida, but after he pulled out unexpectedly from the Tour de France, things changed.
Dennis, already the 2018 time trial world champion, abandoned on the eve of the Tour’s time trial in Pau, which was eventually won by Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step). Instead of racing in the rainbow jersey, Dennis went home and he or the team have yet to reveal the exact reason why.
Two months later, Dennis raced for the first time at the worlds time trial – and won. Signaling something was wrong, he raced to gold on an old BMC bike instead of the team’s Merida issued frame. At the end of the week, Bahrain revealed that it had already decided to annul his contract.
Dennis is taking the decision to the UCI Arbitration Panel, but at the same time looking around for a new home. Currently, Team Ineos and Movistar, and perhaps Dimension Data, are said to be interested.
Steve Cummings (Dimension Data)
Englishman Steve Cummings rode to stage victories in the Tour de France, but faces 2020 with uncertainty. He has not competed since September due to a crash and fractured vertebrae in the Tour of Britain. At 38, it is unclear if Dimension Data will offer him a renewal.
After riding for Discovery Channel, Team Sky, BMC, Cummings switched successfully to MTN/Dimension Data. In 2015, he gave the South African team its biggest win to date. That year, riding as part of a wildcard team in the Tour de France, Cummings won on Nelson Mandela Day in Mende. He won a stage again in 2016.
This year, he placed third in the time trial national championships and 10th overall in the Arctic Race of Norway. The team, assuming Cummings can recover well, should renew him and have him support some of its new hires as its enters 2020 with new sponsor name NTT.
Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe)
It seems likely that the Irishman will take the top sprinter role in Deceuninck-Quick-Step team for 2020, but at this point, lawyers are arguing over paperwork with current team Bora-Hansgrohe.
Bennett raced for the team since 2014 when it was known as Team NetApp-Endura. In that time, he developed into one of cycling’s top sprinters. At the recent Vuelta a España, he won two stages. However, things have not been well between him and the team’s brass since it left him off the 2019 Giro d’Italia roster following his three stage wins in 2018. This year, it went with its German star Pascal Ackermann. And of course, Bennett could not race the Tour de France either with Peter Sagan taking the top spot.
The only hitch is a pre-contract that was made between Bennett and team boss Ralph Denk earlier in the year. Right now, the UCI cycling governing body is looking over it so that Bennett will have the possibility to move to Deceuninck. In the Belgian team, space has been made with Elia Viviani not renewed and moving to Cofidis for 2020.
Brent Bookwalter (Mitchelton-Scott)
The American drove the train for grand tour riders and sharpened his teeth in Team BMC Racing for 11 seasons. This season, Mitchelton-Scott welcomed his road captain talents with open arms. With him, they had an additional man to organize the team in hectic situations for leaders Adam and Simon Yates, and Esteban Chaves.
Bookwalter rode in the Giro d’Italia for Simon Yates but had to pull out before stage 16 not feeling well. He is back racing, competing in the Milano-Torino, won Wednesday by Michael Woods (EF Education First). But, what the 35-year-old will do in 2020 is an unknown with the Aussie WorldTour team yet to confirm him in its roster.