Some teams just got silly this transfer season.
The “silly season” transfer window, the period when teams are able to confirm new signings, is in full flow.
Some squads have been a lot busier than others, and UAE-Team Emirates, Astana-Qazaqstan Team, and Bora-Hansgrohe have been the biggest WorldTour players in the men’s transfer market.
Many other top squads have been penning new deals and big-name riders are trading jerseys left, right, and center. It all means the elite men’s peloton will be an altogether different place in 2022 as teams take on bigger, reshaped ambitions and play for different races than before.
Here’s which teams have gotten very silly this transfer season, and what it means for 2022:
UAE Team Emirates: Ambitions not limited by bank balances
- Major signings: George Bennett, João Almeida, Marc Soler, Alvaro Hodeg, Pascal Ackermann
- Major departures: Alexander Kristoff, David de la Cruz, Joe Dombrowski
UAE Team Emirates’ checkbook is just as big as its ambition.
The state-backed squad has signed away millions of dirham this autumn in its quest to push its Emirati project to the top.
The ink had barely dried on a contract extension stretching through 2027 for double Tour de France champ Tadej Pogačar when the Emirati outfit announced the signing of a swathe of top talent ready to help prolong Pogo’s supremacy.
George Bennett, João Almeida, and Marc Soler can all fight for top 10s in a grand tour in their own right. With them at Pogačar’s side for the coming years, UAE Emirates will be just as strong as Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers in the high mountains in the heat of a grand tour.
Pogačar’s reinforced wrecking crew will boast the brawn to totally reshape the GC landscape next season.
Bennett, Soler, and particularly Almeida – who is signed through 2026 – are more than just footsoldiers, however. All three offer UAE Emirates the opportunity to win all year long, in one- and three-week races. Pogačar and Brandon McNulty will no longer be the squad’s sole GC hopes.
Almeida in particular will add a whole new dynamic to the team.
Two top-6s in his only two grand tours to date make the Portuguese one of the GC riders of the new generation. He’s likely to be offered leadership at the Vuelta or Giro in return for playing number two to Pogačar at the Tour.
Oh, and because GC and mountaintop wins aren’t enough, UAE Emirates wants to win the sprints, too.
Pascal Ackermann was one of the sprinters to beat a few years back, while Alvaro Hodeg is a fastman for the future. Ackermann and Hodeg may not be of the caliber of Fabio Jakobsen or Caleb Ewan, but they will guarantee yet more “W”s in the scorecard for the next years.
UAE-Team Emirates has made a big statement this transfer season.
It wants to win it all, and it wants to keep doing it for some time yet.
Astana-Qazaqstan Team: Old allies roll back the clock
- Major signings: Vincenzo Nibali, Miguel Ángel López, Gianni Moscon, David de la Cruz, Joe Dombrowski
- Major departures: Jakob Fuglsang, Aleksandr Vlasov, Luis León Sanchez, Ion Izagirre, Gorka Izagirre
What is this, 2015?
Vincenzo Nibali and Miguel Ángel López will be riding for Astana-Qazaqstan Team in 2022 as the Kazakh squad welcomes back two of its old friends.
Nibali returns for one more year after taking the squad to the top of the GC tree in the middle of the last decade, while López shuffles back on board after his controversial and curtailed stint at Movistar.
López and Nibali are at the heart of a full GC-makeover at Astana-Qazaqstan in 2022.
Both Jakob Fuglsang and Aleksandr Vlasov are out after leading Astana’s hopes for the past few seasons, as are stalwart Spaniards Luis León Sanchez and the Izagirre brothers.
It’s not just Nibali, Lopez, and a scrabble-busting new name for Astana-Qazaqstan however.
Astana is in full transition mode this winter. The exit of Premier-Tech after just one year, the return of Aleksandr Vinokourov after a brief fallout last season, and the signing of 13 new riders in total sees the squad in full “back to the future” mode.
Nibali may not deliver three grand tour victories like he did when he was first at Astana, but López will keep Vino and Co. in the frame for the years to come.
Like UAE-Team Emirates, Astana-Qazaqstan is out to show the Europeans that Asia can do cycling, too.
Bora-Hansgrohe: So long Sagan, hello grand tour goals
- Major signings: Aleksandr Vlasov, Jai Hindley, Sergio Higuita, Sam Bennett
- Major departures: Peter Sagan, Daniel Oss, Pascal Ackermann
Bora-Hansgrohe is trading classics for classifications in 2022.
The German squad loses team captain Peter Sagan and the Slovak’s stack of sidekicks as it takes what looks like a hard pivot away from classics racing.
Sagan’s departure left Bora-Hansgrohe a big bundle of bank bills to spend and the team’s stable sponsorship situation meant it reinvested royally in a two-prong grand tour attack.
Perennial grand tour nearly-man Wilco Kelderman has been steadily banking Bora-Hansgrohe stage race success in previous seasons.
The signings of Aleksandr Vlasov, Jai Hindley, and Sergio Higuita will allow the German crew and its leading Dutchman to click up a sprocket, and more. Vlasov, Hindley, and Kelderman could all lead the team at the Tour de France as a new grand tour trident, and the trio will give options across the grand tours.
It won’t be all GC for Bora-Hansgrohe. The squad has retained and reshaped its sprint roots.
Sam Bennett’s return more than fills the sprinter-shaped gap left by Sagan and Ackermann, and Bora-Hansgrohe has invested heavily in the Irishman.
A stack of leadout men, including Ryan Mullen and Shane Archbold, join Bennett in what will make for a sprint group equally strong as Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s in 2022.
Bennett will be looking to make up for lost time after losing race days to injury and team politic when he split with Lefevere this season. His return to the team that set him on the fast-track to grand tour greatness from 2015-2019 will be the place to do it.
Although Bora-Hansgrohe won’t be curtailing its one-day ambitions altogether in the years to come, it looks like it’s shifting from its Sagan-center to a stage racing future.
And let’s not forget: EF Education-Nippo, Israel Start-Up Nation
EF Education-Nippo is losing a core of American riders as it brings in a global cast of GC climbers.
Esteban Chaves (Colombia), Merhawi Kudus (Eritrea), and Christian Odd Eiking (Norway) are the leading names in eight new signings – all from different nations – set to join the team.
Meanwhile, EF Education-Nippo’s American stalwarts Lawson Craddock, Will Barta, and Tejay van Garderen are gone.
Van Garderen is trading his seat in the saddle for one in the director’s chair so isn’t totally out of the frame. However, the surprising exit of Barta and Craddock sees Jonathan Vaughters and his U.S.-registered squad increasingly embrace the global reach of its team vision and title sponsors.
Israel Start-Up Nation has further cemented its status as the oldest team in the bunch in 2022.
Just when the average age of a team with more over-30s than your local DIY store was at threat of decreasing with the retirement of Dan Martin and André Greipel, ISN has bought in both Jakob Fuglsang (36) and Giacomo Nizzolo (32) on long-term deals.
Both Fuglsang and Nizzolo can keep the win-counter ticking for the Israeli squad, but like Martin and Greipel before them, there’s a sense their best years have passed.
Sylvan Adams will be hoping that if Mark Cavendish can keep winning at age 36, his crew of old codgers can, too.