Teams & Riders Transfers and Rumours 2020-2021

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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.

I think the entire thing with Carapaz and Amador is what finally broke the camel's back in Unzue's dealing with Acquadro. Unzue had made comments about it for 2-3 years and then with that it became enough is enough. Erviti broke his agent contract with Acquadro to stay at Movistar. I do believe that Amador, Acquadro, and Ineos were shocked when Unzue not only waved the signed contract that pre dated the one Amador signed with Ineos but said they will enforce it and if Amador wants out someone will have to pay the out fee. No one had fought Ineos on that before. He also refused to accept a rider than Acquardo was wanting to place there and Unzue didn't want. Part of what he said when he black listed Acquadro is that his team will no longer be a feeder system for Sky. He's going to look for riders from elsewhere and look for new agents to deal with. Matteo Jorgenson basically got lucky that he was looking for a team in the same year that Movistar decided to go through a wholesale change. He doesn't have an agent and was just sending his resume to any team he could find a contact for. He's said he was surprised when Unzue came to talk with him the day after he emailed them his resume. They do have one more hopeful advantage. They are really, really hoping that Valverde's amateur team will eventually become a true feeder team for them. How successful Valverde is going to be in developing young talent is anyone's guess. The kids through the U-23 team are mostly from Murcia. There are a few from other provinces and two from South America.
 
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They already have a true feeder, they're hoping Valverde's groups will give them a route into the 'other' strong scene of the country's amateur scene because Lizarte are largely based around that Basque-Navarrese scene and they don't have too much involvement in the scene around Comunidad Valenciana and the east coast. However, with Lizarte now having a pro arm and an outright amateur arm as of 2020 I guess the intention is to have more of a stepping stone. Castrillo has been bumped back down to Kern Pharma and I would expect to see them do things like Portugal (they'll probably not be able to race Burgos, which is coterminous, unless they can do some creative company deals to persuade people it's not a Movistar feeder, like Euskaltel had to with Orbea back in the day). The thing is, there are a few riders on Lizarte who are now strong enough to ride pro but possibly not be WT riders; the setup doesn't want to let them go and potentially have a lot of hassle trying to get them back, like happened with Óscar Rodríguez and Sérgio Samitier (they did get the latter, but with much hassle as he was involved in the Acquadro tug of war) but at the same time riders like Martí Márquez and Iván Moreno would be team leaders in the amateur setup with their being older and more experienced in that scene - but not necessarily the riders that the team really wants to get the closest look at. Of the guys on Kern Pharma, I'd keep the closest eye on José Félix Parra and Martin Bouzas, probably. Sergio Tu is an interesting one too because he's been in Sunweb's, CCC's and now Movistar's development system in consecutive years. Is he one of those "good enough to merit a flyer, not good enough to make it?" guys, or are there perhaps some off-bike issues that cause him to keep moving teams? Jordi López is probably the top guy on the outright amateur/espoir team at the moment, I'd think, though a lot of the guys I know most about are the ones who've been moved up to Kern Pharma.
 
They already have a true feeder, they're hoping Valverde's groups will give them a route into the 'other' strong scene of the country's amateur scene because Lizarte are largely based around that Basque-Navarrese scene and they don't have too much involvement in the scene around Comunidad Valenciana and the east coast. However, with Lizarte now having a pro arm and an outright amateur arm as of 2020 I guess the intention is to have more of a stepping stone. Castrillo has been bumped back down to Kern Pharma and I would expect to see them do things like Portugal (they'll probably not be able to race Burgos, which is coterminous, unless they can do some creative company deals to persuade people it's not a Movistar feeder, like Euskaltel had to with Orbea back in the day). The thing is, there are a few riders on Lizarte who are now strong enough to ride pro but possibly not be WT riders; the setup doesn't want to let them go and potentially have a lot of hassle trying to get them back, like happened with Óscar Rodríguez and Sérgio Samitier (they did get the latter, but with much hassle as he was involved in the Acquadro tug of war) but at the same time riders like Martí Márquez and Iván Moreno would be team leaders in the amateur setup with their being older and more experienced in that scene - but not necessarily the riders that the team really wants to get the closest look at. Of the guys on Kern Pharma, I'd keep the closest eye on José Félix Parra and Martin Bouzas, probably. Sergio Tu is an interesting one too because he's been in Sunweb's, CCC's and now Movistar's development system in consecutive years. Is he one of those "good enough to merit a flyer, not good enough to make it?" guys, or are there perhaps some off-bike issues that cause him to keep moving teams? Jordi López is probably the top guy on the outright amateur/espoir team at the moment, I'd think, though a lot of the guys I know most about are the ones who've been moved up to Kern Pharma.
Samitier did say something about having to break his contract with Acquardo so he could sign with Movistar. Basically it was keep the agent or go to the team he wanted to be on. We know the answer there.
Having a second feeder team in a different part of the country would be a very useful help for them. What you just said about not wanting to let the kids go, but no where to move them up either may have something to do with Valverde recently talking about adding a Continental team to his line up of teams if he could get the sponsorship for it. Even though a few years ago he said he didn't want to run a pro team. The Brazilian on their team raced for the Brazilian national team this year at the South American races. His name is Vinicius Rangel.
Funny enough that you previously mentioned Eloy Teruel as he now is part of Valverde's team. The U-23 team has an adult amateur team as part of it and he races for them there and then coaches.
 
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Apparently Ivan Garcia Cortina is close to signing a 3 year contract with Movistar.
Source: https://www.elcomercio.es/deportes/ciclismo/ivan-cortina-pone-rumbo-movistar-20200608013214-nt.html?ref=https://t.co/fs7zoTcbes?amp=1
That wouldn't be the worst team for him, he'd be their main guy for the cobbled classics.
He would have leadership of the team for the cobbled races, plus would have around 2-3 veterans plus several young riders to form a team for those races with. It could work nicely for him. On Twitter he did not deny it. He just said something along the lines of it's nice to see journalists know more about me than I do. There are definitely worse options out there for him. This signing I could see happening, especially if Movistar is serious about attempting to put together cobbled classics team that consists of more than Erviti, Roelandts, and Valverde.
 
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Not sure about the fit. He would be the undisputed leader but would have little support. Jacobs and the declining Erviti and Roelandts (should the latter stay in the team). Maybe some of the youngsters step up, but Cortina would pretty much be on his own. Anyhow, he surely looks a good prospect
 
According to Marca Cortina and Movistar have spoken, but not signed contract. Also Cortina and his agent have said one more team wants to talk with them, plus they want to talk with his current team. It sounds like he may have a couple of interested teams.

 
If it's true I really hope Martin is allowed skip the tour rather than waste half a short season in the Isrealway
He should imo still ride the Tour, just not for the gc, so that he'd be in peak shape for the WC and the Ardennes classics.
Froome and him on the same team could be funny, I remember them sprinting against eachother for the 12th place in Rio.
 
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