Who’s going where? Which teams are folding? Who will be left without a contract?
Cycling’s annual game of musical chairs begins in earnest this week as the official “trading window” opened August 1.
Like any so-called “silly season,” the 2019 version is packed full of rumors, speculation, and soon-to-be confirmed official transfers.
At the WorldTour level, this year is relatively quiet when it comes to the risk of team closures — only Katusha-Alpecin faces an uncertain future — but there are plenty of big names expected to be on the march for 2020.
Some are all but confirmed, others remains shrouded in speculation. With more than 100 riders up for contracts at the end of the season, it will get very busy very soon.
Leading off the bat is Friday’s announcement that Matteo Trentin, a recent stage-winner at the Tour de France, will move from Mitchelton-Scott to CCC Team on a two-year deal.
“I wasn’t necessarily looking to change teams, but I found a good opportunity with CCC Team,” said Trentin, 30. “I’m still missing a victory, or even a podium, in a big classic, so I would like to achieve that in the next seasons. I would also like to target the sprint jersey in a grand tour.”
More confirmations are expected in the coming days.
Departures that have been all-but-confirmed include Vincenzo Nibali, moving from Bahrain-Merida to Trek-Segafredo, according to the team’s principal sponsor. Other confirmed transfers include Nairo Quintana, from Movistar to Arkea-Samsic, and Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz from Movistar to Team Ineos.
Movistar will also be active, looking to fill the voids from Quintana and Carapaz. Mikel Landa is linked to Bahrain-Merida, but said he might stay at Movistar. Enric Mas, third in last year’s Vuelta a España, and Jakob Fuglsang, up for contract at Astana, have been linked to Movistar as well.
“It appears that it’s true about Carapaz and Quintana,” Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué told Cadena Ser. “Of course we’d like to continue with Mikel [Landa]. Right now I cannot guarantee anything. Concerning Enric Mas, we’re not the only ones interested, so let’s hope that he makes the right choice.”
Another rumor making the rounds — denied by both parties — is that Arkea-Samsic and Katusha-Alpecin will merge, with Russian team owner Igor Makarov keeping the WorldTour license going into 2020, with a different sponsor structure. Ilnur Zakarin has also been linked to moves to CCC Team or Israel Cycling Academy, which is also hoping to make the leap to the WorldTour, perhaps as soon as 2020.
Other rumors include Tom Dumoulin leaving Sunweb for Jumbo-Visma despite having a contract through next season. Classics riders Philippe Gilbert and John Degenkolb could also be on the march, possibly to Lotto-Soudal, as well as sprinter Elia Viviani, linked to Cofidis. Mark Cavendish, who was overlooked for selection at the Tour this year, could be leaving Dimension Data. Marcel Kittel, who abruptly left the peloton mid-season, might be looking for a return in 2020.
Contract extensions are also part of the cycle, and more than 100 riders at the WorldTour are up for contracts at the end of this season. Two riders confirmed this week they’re staying put, including Omar Fraile with Astana, and Stéphane Rossetto, active in breakaways at the Tour, will extend with Cofidis. That follows a wave of extensions at Ag2r-La Mondiale, which confirmed six riders will stay beyond 2019, as well as Movistar, which confirmed seven riders are staying with the Spanish “blues.”
Most contracts these days are for one or two years, as many teams are hesitant to sign riders for longer commitments than that. One exception is Team Ineos’s unprecedented five-year contract awarded to Egan Bernal last summer, which will keep the recent Tour winner in Ineos colors through 2023. With the exception of the likely arrival of Carapaz, British super-team is expected to be relatively quiet this season. Over the past two seasons, it’s signed a wave of young promising talent anchored by Bernal. Its major stars are on longer deals, including Chris Froome and Michal Kwiatkowski through 2020, and Geraint Thomas through 2021. Wout Poels, however, is up for contract this season.
A few big names have confirmed their retirements as the end of this season, including Laurens Ten Dam (CCC Team), Mark Renshaw and Lars Bak (Dimension Data), and Steve Morabito (Groupama-FDJ).