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The 2015 pro road season is in the books — the WorldTour wrapped up with Il Lombardia on October 4, and the UCI toasted the season’s best riders at its first-ever awards gala in Abu Dhabi last Sunday. But there was little respite for riders’ agents this week as a number of significant trades and contract renewals were confirmed.
Topping the list of notable moves is Carlos Betancur, who moves from Ag2r La Mondiale to Movistar. The 26-year-old Colombian has a reputation as an enfant terrible, having butted heads with Ag2r management over the course of his three-year tenure with the French outfit. However, he’s shown flashes of brilliance, winning Paris-Nice and Tour du Haut Var in 2014. He was also fifth overall in the 2013 Giro, a season that saw him finish top-five in La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He signed a two-year contract with the Spanish team.
Dutchman Barry Markus, 24, will leave LottoNL-Jumbo for Pro Continental team Roompot-Oranje Peloton. After 16 DNFs in 2015, he’ll be looking to rediscover the spark that helped him finish third in Paris-Roubaix juniors six years ago. Moving in the opposite direction, American Alexey Vermeulen has signed with LottoNL after riding for BMC’s development team in 2015.
Phil Gaimon is another American moving up to a WorldTeam. As announced earlier Friday, he’ll transfer from Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies, a Continental team, to Cannondale. “I had a great experience and the opportunity of a lifetime when I raced for the team back in 2014,” he said. “I learned a lot about how to race in Europe, how to navigate the pack, control breakaways, and better help leaders.”
Dimension Data — known as MTN-Qhubeka through the end of 2015 — had a very busy week, picking up Cameron Meyer, who leaves Orica-GreenEdge and Kanstanstin Siutsou, who leaves Team Sky. With high hopes surrounding the signing of Mark Cavendish, it’s expected that Meyer and Siutsou will be important workhorses. However, Meyer, 27, will likely be good for a few wins next season, having won stages in both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. The South African outfit will, however, bid farewell to Aussie Matt Goss who will leave MTN after one season to join Pro Continental team One Pro Cycling, which is based in the UK.
Europcar saw a few departures as it will become Direct Energie next season. Japan’s Yukiya Arashiro leaves after five seasons with the French squad to join Lampre-Merida on a one-year contract. Jérôme Cousin also spent five years with Europcar, but next year, he’ll ride for Cofidis, signing a two-year agreement with the French Pro Continental team.
Bjorn Thurau will move from one Pro Continental team to another, switching from Bora-Argon 18 to Wanty-Groupe Gobert.
Once a very sprint-centric squad, Giant-Alpecin looks to be transitioning toward a focus on GC results in grand tours. It signed Warren Barguil and Tom Dumoulin for three more years apiece.
Diego Ulissi will be back for his seventh year at Lampre-Merida in 2016. He won a stage at the Giro in 2015, but his career has been marred by a failed anti-doping test in 2014 that led to a prolonged disagreement between the Italian team and the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC). Eventually, Lampre left the voluntary team association.
More news from Italy: Franco Pellizotti renewed with Androni-Sidermec, another squad that has had its share of doping controversy. The team was suspended for 30 days in July after Fabio Taborre failed an anti-doping test — the team’s second violation in the 2015 season. Jakub Mareczko, 21, will return for his second season with Southeast, which, for now is known as Team Tharcor. It too has been plagued by doping scandals in recent seasons.
Evgeny Petrov, 37, signed a one-year deal with Tinkoff-Saxo. “I have a long relation with Oleg Tinkov, and it’s always a pleasure for me to ride for his teams. I started back in 2007 and since 2013 I’ve been part of Tinkoff-Saxo,” the Russian said.
Lastly, Ben King King renewed with Cannondale for two more years. “I’m really excited and proud to keep living the dream with the team in 2016,” King said. “When you battle through the most difficult days, celebrate victories, and support each other as teammates, you become really good friends. That’s the most rewarding part of the sport for me.”