Transfer season is still a few days off, officially…so naturally most of the big moves are already done.
Word on the proverbial street is rife with big transfers on the WorldTour, with the Tour de France acting as a sort of negotiation table the no one is technically allowed to sit out. Think of it as a sort of Super Bowl-cum-combine in the cycling world, and now the contracts are coming down. While nothing can be official just yet, lots of deals seem to be set in stone. Here’s a few big ones worth mentioning before it all hits the wires August 1.
Laurens Ten Dam should be staying with Belkin. After Rabobank pulled sponsorship for 2013, they rode as Blanco until Belkin swooped in. In the interim, riders had their heads out the window of what could have been an airplane pointed a bit too low. Belkin has them assured for the near future, and many of the riders are eager to stay on board one of the longest-running organizations in the professional peloton. Ten Dam was a hot commodity, too, after riding high in the overall early in the Tour and proving himself a GC man alongside Bauke Mollema.
Mark Renshaw, however, is leaving the outfit to reprise his role alongside Mark Cavendish. After Andre Greipel left and found greener pastures after a few years under Mark Cavendish, Renshaw attempted the same. When HTC folded, he headed to what was then Rabobank. He never got it quite right, coming close and taking a few wins, but never becoming the top sprinter he hoped to be. He eventually came to leadout out Theo Bos, and if you’re going to lead someone out, it might as well be one of the best sprinters of all time.
Rigoberto Uran is off for those ever-over-the-horizon green pastures, also on his way, reportedly, to OmegaPharma-Quickstep like Renshaw. OPQS needs a GC man, and they’ve given a few guys a shot. The Velits twins, Tony Martin and others haven’t measured up, though Michael Kwiatkowski looks to be one for the future. Uran can win now, and he might well bring with him a whole load of WorldTour points after a great Giro and a free reign at the upcoming Vuelta a Espana. Team Sky is a kitchen with too many cooks, and Uran is taking a fine opportunity to go for himself while his value is sky high.
Frank and Andy Schleck are back in business after Frank has finished his one year suspension for a positive test in 2012. While he was not offered a contract for the remainder of the season, he has already signed on for 2014 alongside a resurgent Andy Schleck. The little brother showed flashes of his former self in this year’s Tour, an encouraging sign after a most dismal 12 months. Andy will still have a good fall campaign to improve his form, but the real test comes during the Ardennes Classics next spring. He and Frank will have to carry on the momentum from Fabian Cancellara (hopefully) and look to return to glory at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, where Andy took his confirmation win in 2009.
Sammy Sanchez will be on the trade block and will be a prized signing for the team that can grab his services. After Euskatel-Euskadi announced that its riders are free to look for a new team, Sanchez’s cell phone must have just about exploded. While his 2013 hasn’t been stellar, he’s still got some big stage wins left in them, and isn’t a complete outsider for the World Championship this fall, either. It’s only been a day or so, but here’s a pretty safe guess: watch for Sanchez to join Movistar or Astana. Astana’s tactic of having lots of stage winners usually pays off a few times a year, and they’ll be licking their chops at the prospect of having a rider like Sanchez in a team that needs some guidance and international flare. He may also prove to be a decent wingman for Astana’s GC trio of Vicenzo Nibali, Janez Brajkovic and Jakob Fuglsang.