Teams & Riders Transfers and Rumours 2020-2021

Interesting. This kid is 17.
TBF, he's turning 18 later this year, as opposed to just having turned 17. But, I find next year the most interesting; So... he's on contract with UAE, but won't actually ride for them, and I don't think they even have a feeder-team.

It seems to be the new norm - Target a junior rider with a long term contract - This will have an effect on assessing under 23's talent.
My biggest concern would be teams thinking that if you don't have a WT contract straight out of the juniors, you're simply not good enough. However, even with all the Evenepoels and Simmons, Bernals and Pogacars of the World, there will always be late bloomers.
 
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I wrote about a future with prospective loaning of junior and espoir talent being signed to WT teams progressively earlier and earlier here. I think we're potentially headed for either an ice hockey-style market with riders picked up at youth level and then being placed in "the system" as each team will 'own' or affiliate to Continental teams, espoir teams and maybe even ProTeams to create a development path, assigning riders to different teams within their farm as they see fit, or a football-style transfer market of the biggest teams signing up any and all young prospects then loaning them out to other teams at lower levels until they're ready to either graduate to the main team or be discarded. The success of a few big young talents and the hording of top prospects by Sky/Ineos thanks to their skimming the cream off other people's development programs, tempting them across using the money they saved by not spending it on a development program (plus a very pliant Acquadro giving them the lowdown on what the winning offer should be) has meant teams are progressively looking to grab hold of riders ever earlier, in case they miss the boat on the next Egan Bernal or Remco Evenepoel.

Savio has played this masterfully, of course, doing a great line in signing wonderkids up to contracts they'll always be ready to graduate before the end of, and then pocketing the buyout figure. It's a bit like the Athletic Bilbao strategy - you will get your player from Bilbao, but not when their contract is up or when there's a low buyout clause. They'll sign one last contract with Athletic, to ensure that the team that nurtured them can continue to grow using its strategy of only local talent, and then leave shortly afterward when that higher buyout clause that better reflects their value to Athletic (i.e. slightly higher than market value because of the greater difficulty Bilbao will have in sourcing a replacement) is met.

When the second richest team in the sport (at the time) disbands its development team because it can't stop the richest team in the sport stealing all its top talents, no doubt it's frustrating, but you can't really blame Sky/Ineos for doing it. With the help of very compliant agents, they create a system whereby the only threats to their continued success are riders they've already taken a look at and rejected - a great way to create a dynasty, especially now they're less tied to the national project identity so there isn't as much emphasis on a British leader as in the early years. It's easy to be angry at the big money clubs preying on the lower money clubs (notwithstanding that it's not easy to feel sympathy for Jim Ochowicz, of course) creating a Ligue 1-like financial disparity and concentrating all the talent into top teams (you know, like Riyadh Mahrez signing for Manchester City to sit on the bench for 3/4 the season) reducing the variety in the races, but as long as that doesn't create a situation where it destroys the spectacle and affects the audience (as it has done in Ligue 1, which has easily the lowest viewing figures of the 'big 5' leagues in Europe worldwide if I remember rightly), it's smart business. Once it starts affecting the audience and turning fans away because of a lack of spectacle, then of course it's no longer smart business and it's in their interest to try to entice more competition to win that audience back.

Eleven years ago, Cervélo Test Team worked out they could get the best calendar of anybody - they didn't spend the money applying for a ProTour licence. They instead bought a much cheaper ProContinental licence, and used the money they'd saved by doing that to pay some world class riders, which meant that they were welcomed as a wildcard at almost every ProTour race. It was a fantastic success but the long term effects of it changed the wildcard system forever.

Three or four years ago, Sky worked out they could get the best prospect line of anybody - they didn't spend the money running feeder teams or setting up development programs. They instead kept their money in their pockets, and when riders excelled in other people's development programs, they offered them more money than the team that developed them could, because they didn't have the cost of the continued running of a development team to consider. It's a fantastic success at present, and the long term effects of it may change the transfer system forever. Whether that's for the better or the worse, we won't know for a good few years, just as the real impacts of Cervélo and BMC's big spending in the ProConti scene have only really become apparent in the last three or four years too.
 
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I could see most WT teams turning to the football style loan model in the near future with each team having agreements with one or a few like minded conti teams who would take in the young prospects.

I had always assumed that was the point of Team Wiggins btw to act as a semi independent 2nd division GB cycling team
 
I could see most WT teams turning to the football style loan model in the near future with each team having agreements with one or a few like minded conti teams who would take in the young prospects.

I had always assumed that was the point of Team Wiggins btw to act as a semi independent 2nd division GB cycling team
The UCI has sort of already allowed that for this yearwith WT teams being allowed to have a rider from their conti level team for a couple of races. The only example I can think of though is Jake Stewart from the Groupama Fdj Conti team racing for the WT Team at the Volta Algarve.

You assumed right as I think the original purpose to the Wiggins team was a place for the GB endurance squad to ride and train together in the lead up to Rio 2016. Then it became an u23 devo team which was sort of diluted last year with Gabz Cullaigh and Lawrence Carpenter.
 
TBF, he's turning 18 later this year, as opposed to just having turned 17. But, I find next year the most interesting; So... he's on contract with UAE, but won't actually ride for them, and I don't think they even have a feeder-team.



My biggest concern would be teams thinking that if you don't have a WT contract straight out of the juniors, you're simply not good enough. However, even with all the Evenepoels and Simmons, Bernals and Pogacars of the World, there will always be late bloomers.
Thanks, thought he had just turned 17.


Agreed, there will always be riders who steadily progress into their 20's.

Movistar does like having a feeder team and it's looking more and more like they want to keep Lizarte as one and they are hoping Valverde Team also becomes a feeder team. I've wondered if that might have something to do with Alejandro recently talking about maybe adding a Continental team to his nice group of teams.
 
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On the one hand it seems even more plausible to me that cycling teams would fish young talent rather soon. I think that even if there are late bloomers in cycling, it is nowadays easier to see the potential of a cyclist during his teenage years than that of a football player because the physiological limits are way more important and the conditions of the team/ sport do not make such a difference.
But then I wonder if there are so many young people craving to be a pro cyclist, that a fish/loan system like that can fully work in cycling. In football, I think, one reason why it works, is the hope of many, many young boys and the will to cling to the small chance of becoming a star.

Agents indeed are becoming more normal and important in lots of sectors, not only sports. I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe it is simply a consequence of realizing how important networking and someone who supports your case is and an institutionalisation of this thinking. So, rather a sociological explanation than an economic one.

I wonder how much of this will still apply if most countries will fall into a huge recession.

But actually it might be that pro sports are not losers in the end, if people are desperate for entertainment and seeing "heroes".
 
It seems to be the new norm - Target a junior rider with a long term contract - This will have an effect on assessing under 23's talent.
True with an increasing number of talented juniors skipping the under 23s a top 3 finish in the L’Avenir or the Girobio is not going to have the same benchmark for judging the young talents who place highly in the biggest age group races.
 
Well, they obviously spent quite a bit on Mas, got screwed over by Acquadro on a few riders, and lost two leaders, so having lost a lot of their more experienced helpers like Castroviejo, the Izagirres, Plaza, the Herradas, Sutherland and Javi Moreno over the last few years as well as some of their replacements like Sütterlin and Dowsett, they've kind of been in the position of having to replenish the support corps.

Usually Unzué likes to use retreads, riders he knows from before (Karpets, Dani Moreno, Rubén Plaza) and cut-price flyers on riders who are either regressing looking for one last hurrah (Bruseghin, Moreau, Gadret, Szmyd) or whose stars have waned and come cheaper than their talent as a result (Rujano, Cobo, Betancur), and they've tended to only turn over a few at a time from their own youth systems or periodically raiding Caja Rural for prospects, which means almost all of the young riders they bring in are either Spaniards or Latin Americans or the occasional rider from outside that's appeared at Lizarte.

This offseason is the one that said wholesale change was required, though and a gambling on youth was overdue. They moved on from 2 leaders who would typically have a bit of time left as leaders in the team, and they also lost some of the riders who were supposed to be the next guys coming through, like Rubén Fernández, and who genuinely were the next guys coming through, like Carapaz. But I think the big difference maker is Andrey Amador. I think Unzué is genuinely wounded by that one. I thought he was a lifer, like Txente, Lastras, and to a lesser extent Guti and Rojas. He came across from Costa Rica into Abarcá's feeder system, he rode a couple of months with Viña Magna before riding two years with Lizarte, turned pro with Abarcá and had been there for 13 years. He was there through thick and thin. The constant bleeding of them for talents by Sky/Ineos has been an issue for several years, obviously, and I'm not sure Sky have taken more riders from a single source other than the UK espoir scene than they have from Movistar over the years (Urán, Zandio, Kiryienka, David López, Intxausti, Castroviejo, Carapaz and Amador)... but most of them weren't part of the furniture in Egüés like Amador was. Urán was still young. Carapaz had come through Lizarte, but he was 23 when he came to Europe so he had only been part of Movistar for 3 years. The others had been picked up at various points in their career after reasonably long time spent elsewhere. But Amador? Urán and Carapaz might have been bigger names at the time, but the only thing Sky/Ineos have taken from Movistar that will have been a deeper wound than Amador would be the Pinarello contract. That will have really, really hurt the team. Abarcá and Pinarello was an unbreakable pact. They'd been riding Pinarello, unbroken, since Ángel freaking Arroyo was their team leader. Go look at the pictures from Laguía's record-setting Vuelta KOMs in the 80s, from Delgado's Tour, from Indurain's Tours, Giri and Hour Record, through Zülle, Olano, Jiménez, Mancebo, Menchov, Pereiro, Valverde... always Pinarello.

Either way, they have absolutely plundered the youth ranks for whoever they can get that isn't already with Acquadro, because they've realised that if they're to succeed in that world with him on the blacklist they've got to scout smarter, like Quick Step do. Canyon probably want a bit more of a multi-national team too. They've picked up riders in styles they ordinarily wouldn't look at, too, which is an unusual departure, like Jacobs. There are new signings who are 24 or under, and of those only two (Norsgaard and Samitier) have been contracted to a team in the top two levels other than as a stagiare. Two more (Elosegui and Rubio) haven't been on any professional teams at all before. In addition to them, they've also signed a prospective team leader who has only just turned 25.

The team also has another three riders (Arcas, Carretero and Erviti) who have never known professional cycling other than with Abarcá, one (Pedrero) who has spent less than half a season elsewhere, and two more (Valverde and Rojas) who have been at the team for more than 12 years. And yet, they can't find helpers. They are having an absolute disaster of finding rouleur helpers and, without meaning to be disparaging, the signings of Mora and Albert Torres have that touch of desperation. It perhaps doesn't - the team has taken flyers on its rouleur helpers before, such as when they signed Eloy Teruel after 3 years of no professional road racing, and Carlos Oyarzún after a surprising (and later, it turned out, suspicious) turn of pace in the Worlds ITT. But Mora and Torres are 32 and 30 respectively; both are track specialists, and last year was Mora's first at the ProContinental level after bouncing around road teams for years including a stint in Japan and two years in the British domestic scene, while Torres has bounced around doing the Caribbean scene with Inteja, racing Morocco and all kinds of other interesting stuff, but the last - and only - time he entered a race at the .HC level or above was when he was a stagiare for Androni Giocattoli and entered Paris-Bruxelles... in 2012! Now, he was able to complete races like the Volta a Portugal, and he isn't going to be leant on for results, but with the flat stage team consisting of neo-pros, veteran track specialists, Jorge Arcas, Lluís Más, Imanol Erviti and Nelson Oliveira, it's a bit of a drop off from a few years ago with Bennati, Ventoso, Castroviejo, Dowsett, Sutherland, Malori (until his horrific accident, obviously that was not something they could help) and the able all-terrain engines like Lastras, Plaza, the Izagirres and so on. Oliveira and Erviti are the last ones left, and Erviti is now 36 and won't be doinig this forever.

One suspects that the previously fairly low value of neo-pros is being pushed up considerably as teams compete over riders to get onto their roster from the word go, whereas a few years ago they would pick out the riders from their development systems or trusted youth and espoir teams, your first contract would be a low level one unless you were a prospective superstar (and even then, somebody who was an instant hit like Peter Sagan turned pro at 19, if he'd had his 2010 and 2011 seasons but was only facing U23 riders, he'd have got a bigger first contract than the one he was being paid for those seasons, but he probably got a bigger 2nd contract because of having faced pros so successfully on his cheaper first contract). Nowadays, with teams pilfering riders from other teams' development to save on doing their own development, and signing up every wonderkid going, teams are having to get in there first to stand a chance of getting hold of any of these kids before they suddenly need to pay them the big bucks - say what you will about Sky/Ineos, but they were smart - teams like BMC and Katyusha came in with big budgets and threw their money at a handful of people who were already at the top. Sky/Ineos threw a lot of money at the top guys, sure, but they also made clear to buy themselves the next generation of stars, so if you want to compete with them, you've got to get to those riders before they do, which is increasingly difficult when they've got a direct dial to the most cut-throat agent and more money than you. It's a bit easier if you're Quick Step because they have focus on areas of the calendar that Sky aren't as bothered about, but Movistar are competing largely across the same set of races, and have been seen as the main foil to Sky for a few years, only they're now being usurped for that role as well as Jumbo continue to strengthen and now have a more fearsome GC hydra-head than Movistar could have dreamed to line up even if they'd kept their lineup from last year intact.
 
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