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One Fan's Thirteen Most Interesting Transfers

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I'm not sure I've paid close enough attention to other offseasons to say if this year's patch of transfers is unusually interesting, dull, or somewhere closer to typical. But there are a handful in which I see the makings of some great 2007 storylines, and a few others that bear watching. So, on the flip, here's a baker's dozen of transfers, why they're interesting, and how much they matter.

Andreas Kloden to Astana
Why it's interesting
An easy one... Kloden was next in line after the disgraced Landis and the dubious Pereiro for the Tour title this year, something he could be whining about instead of Oscarito if his former squad knew even the first thing about tactics. And yet, he's off to join one of the few squads around with a fairly clear Tour leader. Kind of a head-scratcher all around.

How much it matters
On the ten scale, I'd give this an 8. The move simultaneously defangs one Tour squad while creating the equivalent of a quarterback controversy in another for the calendar's main event. Like T-Mobile staff decisions of the past, this could work out, but it's not presently clear how.

Paolo Savoldelli to Astana
Why it's interesting
Kind of a personal one, but he's in my top 5 favorite riders. Getting up there in age, the Falcon has found a squad that couldn't possibly have anyone more interested in the Giro, though, so in a way this gives him his best chance, even more than Disco did if he's not going to be asked to worry about the Tour.

How much it matters
A 5. The Cycling world needs Paolo as a team leader in May, just to make the Giro about 20% more interesting. Also, Disco don't have a Giro guy now (Ivan? Danielson?), while Astana are staffed up for every month.

Nick Nuyens to Cofidis
Why it's interesting
The apprenticeship is over. Nuyens has either held back or been allowed ahead by Tom Boonen for the last two years. In that time, he's scored some nice wins (Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Het Volk), and at 26 is coming into his own. Since his focus is the same as Boonen's, this means they'll now be dueling it out. How can this be bad?

How much it matters
A 6. Nuyens vs. Boonen will be all the rage in the early cobbled races, and will be a major storyline (among several, keep reading) at the Tour of Flanders. And Cofidis could use a cobbled rider. Whether Nuyens could double as a stage sprinter or rider of other classics -- and become an even more interesting rider -- remains to be seen.

Leif Hoste to Davitamon
Why it's interesting
Probably the keystone move in the wave of Flanders contenders transfers. Damn, that's an awful sentence. But Hoste was the big prize for the Flanders teams, after coming within one rail crossing of double second-placings at the Ronde and Roubaix. His move is also a further demonstration that Johan Bruyneel can't keep the Flemish studs from the home teams, if they come calling.

How much it matters
An 8. Davitamon lost patience with the aging Peter Van Petegem, and ponied up for Hoste. This sets up the Hoste vs. Boonen as the main feature of the Davitamon vs. Quick Step rivalry. I'm not sure Hoste can win when Boonen is on top form, but it's Davitamon's best shot. F--- stage 16 of the Tour; the Tour of Flanders is going to be an absolute shootout.

Levi Leipheimer to Disco
Why it's interesting
American boy comes home, where he can finally be a team leader at the Tour de France without having to worry about getting dissed by his foreign overlords. Well, unless they sign Basso, whereupon he can focus on the Deutschland Tour instead.

How much it matters
3. Sentimental fave, but I've never had that much confidence in him.

Bernhard Kohl to Gerolsteiner
Why it's interesting
Well, we'll see, but Gerolsteiner can now boast a flotilla of German speaking studs at every race. Like most of his new teammates, he won't be favored to win anything big, but he'll be a guy to watch very closely. All he's done yet is third at the Dauphine and two Austrian road titles, but he's 24 and he can ride for the GC.

How much it matters
Anywhere from 2 to 7; I'll be generous and say a 5. He hasn't found his niche, but I'm guessing he hasn't found his ceiling either. It might take time, but he could break out before 2009.

Filippo Pozzato to Liquigas
Why it's interesting
My #1 favorite transfer. His two years at Quick Step were a stroke of genius. Pippo broke onto the pro scene with wins at Tirreno-Adriatico (overall) and a Tour stage somewhere around when he started shaving. As Italians routinely do, the home fans anointed him their savior at age 22, kind of a crappy thing to do to a kid that young, really. But rather than hanging around Italy being tormented by the expectations for six years (see DiLuca, Danilo), he left town after 2004 and developed into a top rider under the expert tutelage of Patrick Lefevre. He won the Cyclassics in 2005 and Milan-San Remo this year, while serving as Tom Boonen's lieutenant and learning how a great classics team works. He's miles ahead of where he'd be if he'd just stayed with Fassa or Mapei or their successors.

How much it matters
A 9, my highest score. OK, I have no way of knowing if Pippo is the next Bartoli, but it's worth watching him to find out. We've seen him ride powerfully in March and early April, but at some point in his career he might orient himself toward the hillier stuff, or just follow the Boonen path, I dunno. All I know is that he's back home, and reasonably ready to assume his place among Italy's great young classics studs.

Gert Steegmans to QS
Why it's interesting
Just because people seemed awfully intrigued about him, he's Nuyens' age (26), and although he signed up to be Boonen's lieutenant he'll certainly be in the thick of things in the early months.

How much it matters
3. Well, if Boonen gets hurt, he becomes their man, and could be a factor. I'd guess he'll be the new #2 guy who gets to try for the win on those days in March and April when Boonen wants to hold back (K-B-K, Gent Wevelgem, etc.)

Max Van Heeswijk to Rabo
Why it's interesting
Sort of an older Steegmans, I guess, at least in that he's been a second or third option for his team that needed to be watched. Now he goes home to Holland for a taste of glory, at least when he's not being forced to work for Michael Boogerd and his magical dentures.

How much it matters
Oh, I dunno, a 2? But it has to be asked... does Disco have a cobbles team still? Gusev and Hincapie are a solid tandem, but they've lost all their depth.

JJ Haedo to CSC
Why it's interesting
An Argentinian sprinting for a top Pro Tour team? How can this not be fun? There is no way of knowing if he can keep up, but I can't wait to find out.

How much it matters
Somewhere between a 0 and an 8. Let's call it a 4. Who the hell knows? All I can say is that CSC don't really have anyone else for the bunch sprints besides O'Grady, who on any given day has about five other jobs.

Gerard Ciolek to T-Mobile
Why it's interesting
So many ways this story could go. First off, T-Mobile are a little light on bunch sprinters, and Ciolek is a 19-year-old German sensation, with a national title and a stage of the DeutschlandTour, plus 5th in the Cyclassics to his young name. But then, it's T-Mobile, and they've screwed up many a young star. But it's the new T-Mobile...

How much it matters
I bet he'll be in the thick of things this year, so I'll call it a 4.

Peter Van Petegem to QS
Why it's interesting
Sort of Johnny Damon going from the Red Sox to the Yankees, if we were more certain Damon was washed up. Van Petegem couldn't get anything going this year, and will be 37 when he gets his next shot at Flanders, as Tom Boonen's lieutenant. I have no idea what his role will be, and I'd bet he doesn't know for sure either. But what's a Flemish champion to do when Davitamon dumps him... find a Spanish squad? Come on.

How much it matters
A 1. Probably just a side note. Even if Boonen were off form in April, and even if somehow Lefevre prefers to rely on the old master, we got no indication this year that he could pull it off.

Steffen Wesemann to Wiesenhof
Why it's interesting
Another aging cobbles champion, a year younger than Van P, being put out to pasture by his fancy team. Wesemann had to drop down to non-Pro Tour Wiesenhof and hope for invites to the biggest races, though he'll probably be back at Flanders or Amstel or whatever, going on suicide attack-after-suicide attack. I thought he looked awfully good this year, on the few occasions I saw him.

How much it matters
A 2. He'll figure in one really great race this year, but I doubt he'll win it. With armies of young studs in the peloton, it's a tough time to be getting old.