The teams of the men’s WorldTour are facing three very different tickets for their rides through the 2023 calendar.
The revolving doors of the off-season transfer market saw the gap between grand tour teams widening as the male pro peloton’s two powerhouses decisively split from the chasing pack.
The first-class “haves” of UAE Emirates and Jumbo-Visma flexed their financial muscles against the lower-budget have-nots to pump the two most recent Tour de France winning teams further from the likes of Quick-Step, Bora-Hansgrohe and even the rebooting powerhouse of Ineos Grenadiers.
- Five transfers that could change the game in 2023
- UAE Emirates builds beyond Tadej Pogačar to strengthen ‘superteam’ status in 2023
What does that, the rest of the winter’s transfer activity, and the shifting ambitions of the World Tour’s leading teams, mean for the grand tour season to come?
First-class: The supersquads
UAE Emirates, Jumbo-Visma
UAE Emirates saw Adam Yates and Tim Wellens among those joining Tadej Pogačar, Juan Ayuso, and João Almeida this winter. Jumbo-Visma landed Wilco Kelderman and Dylan Van Baarle as headline names to saddle up alongside Jonas Vingegaard, Primož Roglič and Steven Kruijswijk.
The influx of yet more talent this off-season means the peloton’s two superpowers got so good that either of them could sweep the season’s three-week races.
They’ve got the team captains, back benches, and staffer savvy to crush the GC calendar all the way from the snowy peaks and time trials of the Giro d’Italia through to the sun and steep grades of the Vuelta a España.
Don’t be surprised to see Roglič, Vingegaard and “A.N. Other” win the Giro, Tour and Vuelta respectively for Jumbo-Visma this season. Almeida, Pogačar and maybe Ayuso could likewise take a triple for their Emirati team. And with any high-profile grand tour rewards comes the potential for more high-profile signings for the future.
A self-perpetuating system? Here’s hoping it’s not that way.
Business class: One-man bands, podium-chasers
Soudal Quick-Step, Ineos Grenadiers, Bora Hansgrohe, Movistar, EF Education-EasyPost, Groupama-FDJ, Jayco-AlUla, Bahrain Victorious, Ag2r-Citroën, DSM
The WorldTour’s second grand tour tier packs squads boasting GC champions, consistent podium-finishers, and future talents. But unlike UAE Emirates and Jumbo-Visma, none of them boast the multiple options and depth of domestique required to crack into the peloton’s biggest league.
This winter saw Yates jump from Ineos Grenadiers to UAE Emirates, and Kelderman leave Bora-Hansgrohe for Jumbo-Visma – two stark symbols of where all riders want to be in 2023.
And with Egan Bernal unproven since his horror crash, Bora-Hansgrohe and Ineos Grenadiers lose ground as Jai Hindley and Geraint Thomas become the sole solid center of their teams’ classification ambitions in 2023.
Riders like Thomas, Hindley, Remco Evenpoel, Richard Carapaz, Enric Mas, and Simon Yates could go bar-to-bar with Pogačar or Vingegaard on their best days. But without the same team depth, Hindley, Thomas, Evenepoel et al could face mountaintop finishes fighting solo as they fend off multiple riders from the two superteams.
And outside of one or maybe two select “A” three-weekers, the grand tour’s second tier will be left as spectators in the three-week races that shape the narrative of the season and the bank balances of the future.
Economy-class: Stage-hunters, breakaway-botherers
Alpecin Deceuninck, Astana Qazaqstan, Cofidis, Intermarché-Circus-Wanty, Arkéa Samsic, Trek-Segafredo
And in the third grand tour tier of the WorldTour? Specialist sprint teams, breakaway botherers, and squads unexpectedly cut adrift from team captains.
The controversial exits of Nairo Quintana and Miguel Ángel López from Arkéa-Samsic and Astana Qazaqstan respectively radically reshapes their teams. Short of marquee sprinters, the sudden loss of GC leaders leaves Arkéa and Astana short of centerpieces and set to scramble for stage wins and breakaway airtime.
Elsewhere in Cat.3, riders like Guillaume Martin, Giulio Ciccone, and Louis Meintjes are good bets for grand tour top-10s. But their teams won’t be counting on those lower-classification finishes to keep sponsors shelling cash and will instead be pinning their hopes on putting backers’ logos into the stage-winner’s frame.
None of the third tier’s collective was able to go major on the transfer market this winter and instead turned toward young untested talents for the new year. Meanwhile, Tour de France-topping rivals threw resources into their already rich rosters.
And with those ever-expanding fortunes, life in the lower league might only get more difficult in 2023.