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Offseason Overviews: Who Won the Transfer Game?

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This is hardly the kind of in-depth team preview we'll get into in, say, February, but I thought it'd be fun to take a quick look at where each of the Pro Tour teams appears to be headed based on its roster changes. With heavy assistance from the Wieleruitslagen transfer list. On the flip...

AG2R

Major losses include only Operacion Puerto no-hoper Francisco Mancebo; gains only include Martin Elminger, Rinaldo Nocentini, and several neo-pros. Biggest news was resigning all of their key guys, including Tour protgonists Cyril Dessel and Sylvain Calzati.  

VERDICT: Status quo. Modest team should keep meeting its goals.

Astana Wurth

Hard to rate, since this is the reconstitution of Liberty Seguros, and much of it is tied up in potential contract issues. But if you want to assume it will all work out, then Astana was the busiest team of the offseason, hauling in lots of big-name castoffs: Kessler, Kloden, Savoldelli, Hasebacher...

VERDICT: Downward trend. Are they trying to catch Milram in the all-important "highest average rider age" category? But they're the only team to win a grand tour without scandal, and the Vino-Kashechkin duo will be putting the peloton on edge in France this July, so who cares, right?

Bouygues Telecom

Middlin' team budget could make the Bouygues boys easy pickings for wealthier teams, but they did well to retain just about everyone (except Seb Chavanel? Anthony Ravard?), and scooped up a couple Phonaks plus a French neo-pro named Dimitri Champion. How can you not like this?

VERDICT: Upwardly mobile. Young team saw success with Pierrick Fedrigo and Xavier Florencio last year, and they're coming back en masse, with another year under their belts. Not too shabby.

Caisse d'Epargne- Illes Balears

Either their roster was in complete lockdown, or Wielerluitslagen didn't hear of it. No significant changes whatsoever.

VERDICT: The good news is, changes weren't really needed, at least not at the star level.

Cofidis

Big score in Nick Nuyens, useful additions in Frank Hoj and Steve Zampieri (I think, not sure). They lost Leonardo Bertagnolli, but as they say, when you ain't got nuthin, you go nuthin to lose, right? Uh, well, CS likes newly departed Arnaud Coyot as the next Chicken, for Unibet. Oh, and Nicholas Roche might be coming on, at CA. So much for the future.

VERDICT: Improvement! In 2007 at least, they went from being hopeless in pretty much every race to only being hopeless outside the Belgian Classics. In other words, Nuyens ensures them a good six weeks of intrigue, leaving them only another 30 or so weeks of pack fodder.

Credit Agricole

Not much change, just a few vaguely familiar names headed out, and the same plus Nicholas Roche coming in.

VERDICT: Thor of the same.

CSC

Probably suffered the single biggest individual departure, and certainly the most scrutinized, when Riis and Basso parted ways. Of course, Basso's last race was Stage 20 of the Giro, so it's fair to say that CSC has already more or less moved on. They'll miss uber-stud Jakob Piil occasionally, but did well to retain their star-studded lineup, and added an amusing talent in JJ Haedo as well.

VERDICT: If you want to take stock of the Basso departure here, then fine, they got creamed. If pigs can fly and the whispers and sanctions all disappear, then Disco will have made off with the #1 grand tour rider on the planet. But another, perhaps preferred, way of looking at things is to ignore the Puerto riders, and if you do that, you'd have to say CSC have had a very successful offseason. They'll remain competitive pretty much everywhere they were already, and adding Haedo might help them in their one weak area, field sprints. With CSC's tight budget, they could easily become the Oakland A's of Cycling, forever breeding stars for the richer teams. And when you think of all the talent -- Cancellara, the Schlecks, Sastre, Bak, Zabriskie -- it's amazing that they held on to pretty much everyone.

Davitamon-Lotto

While CSC have escaped the pecking order in transfer season, Davitamon certainly did not. Sure, the non-Classics side of the ledger is pretty much intact, but on the Classics side, Quick Step uses Davitamon (a/k/a You're Pregnant-Lotto) as its personal farm squad, this time grabbing Gert Steegmans and Peter Van Petegem to fill its openings for a youngish stud and useful vet. The good news is that YP-L turned around and did the same to Discovery, nabbing Leif Hoste and Jurgen van den Broeck. Leon van Bon left for Rabo, as well.

VERDICT: Slight upgrade. Van P's only real chance is at Paris-Roubaix, now that his sprint is diminishing and he hasn't climbed away from the field in a while. Given his royal status, his presence at Davitamon actually caused more problems than it solved, with some other talented guys waiting for their chance. And while Steegmans is good, Hoste was one rail crossing away from a dynamic double last year: second to a couple of superhuman performances at both the Ronde and Roubaix. Now they have one leader in April, and a pretty good lieutenant in van den Broeck.

Discovery

Yikes... where to start? They lost their Classics team, at least the Belgian angle to it. Gone is Hoste and the other VDB. Savoldelli took their Giro strategy to Astana. Azevedo went home to Benfica; Triki to LeakyGaz, Van Heeswijk to Rabo, Michael Barry and Roger Hammond to T-Mob... brutal. But Paulinho, Vaitkus and Vandborg will add some muscle, with Basso and Levi Leipheimer the big names.

VERDICT: Kind of a disaster... except they might win the Giro and the Tour. Huh? You'd have to have been living under a pretty big rock to be unaware of the PR disaster the Basso signing has become, but, well... they still have a Pro Tour license, and they didn't have a Grand Tour team last year, so it's worth a shot. The bigger hit was to their Classics team. Johan took pride in building a stable of young Belgians, starting with no less than Tommeke Boonen years back, only to see them go home when the call came. They still have Hincapie as their first option, but their depth has taken a huge hit, and their future prospects are a lot murkier.

Euskaltel

No major losses. None. Whatsoever. They picked up Igor Astarloza's brother Mikel. Everyone else (i.e. Sammy Sanchez) stayed put.

VERDICT: Unless the media starts obsessing over Iban Mayoz now, I'd say things are nice and peaceful at Euskaltel these days. Looking good (more or less) with Sammy, Zubeldia, and a few other talented guys.

FDJeux

Bernhard Eisel took his field sprinting to T-Mob, and young stud Gustav Erik Larson escaped to Unibet. In comes Sebastian Chavanel.

VERDICT: FDJeux are a youth movement, as their name suggests, so losing Larson is bad. But Frederic Guesdon, Philippe Gilbert and Thomas Lovqvist represent the future, maybe the immediate future. Not to worry.

Gerolsteiner

Out are Leipheimer, Hoj, Haselbacher; in comes Bernhard Kohl. Surprisingly quiet.

VERDICT: Kohl is a quality rider, and their losses were probably additions. Leipheimer was never going to be the guy they built around; Stef Schumacher probably is. Now everyone knows. Of course, now Kohl has to battle with Davide Rebellin for support, but not knowing who your leader is hurts less in single-day races than grand tours, right?

Lampre-Caffita

Almost nothing to speak of... except resigning the Kid until he's the Man.

VERDICT: Like I said, not much to speak of.

Liquigas Bianchi

Second biggest splash of the signing season was Filippo Pozzato, and if Basso gets gets sidelined Pippo may be the signing of the year. Gone is Stefano Garzelli, Dario Cioni, Stefano Zanini. Little other news.

VERDICT: Big coup in for the cobbles and San Remo in snagging Pozzato, who could also be heard from (again) in the summer classics too. This fills a pretty big hole in the Leakygas lineup, and they didn't lose anything else, unless you still care about Garzelli's occasional grand tour cameos.

Milram

Yawn. They're bringing Igor Astarloza back to the Pro Tour, which is a solid signing (assuming he's sans baggage, which he should be). Nothing else.

VERDICT: Whatever. They're still old. But if Astarloza is out for revenge, his signing could be a coup.

Quick Step - Innergetic

The biggest overall newsmakers, with Pippo Pozzato and Nick Nuyens leaving, Steegmans and Van Petegem coming in, Bettini improbably staying on. Jose Rujano moves on, quietly.

VERDICT: Feh. Losing two classics studs might hurt a little, but it doesn't have to, three or four potential leaders should serve them at the Het Volks, Nokere Koerse's, and monuments as well. But Lefevre continued to let his stage racing squad lie fallow. You could mark them down a few points, I guess.

Rabobank

Another team with a peaceful offseason. Pickups include Max Van Heeswijk and Leon Van Bon, with no notable departures. The usual suspects will all be back.

VERDICT: Status quo... whatever that means exactly.

Saunier Duval

Other than switching from human rights to deforestation... no notable departures at all; and only Iban Mayo coming in.

VERDICT: I love trees, so I guess it's been a good offseason.

T-Mobile

Busy bees... Auf'd are Ullrich, Kessler, Kloden, Kohl, Wesemann, Pollack, Giling... about a dozen guys. Another dozen come in, such as Gerald Ciolek, but it's mostly workers like Michael Barry.

VERDICT: T-Mob have always had way too many protected riders, so although this looks like a talent exodus, it might actually help sort things out. But right now I don't know who they ride for in the Tour... Linus Gerdemann??

Unibet

Added a ton of guys to a roster of relative unknowns, like Rujano, Casper, and young comers Coyot and Larson. Few losses that I'd ever recognize... VDB? VERDICT: Face it, I know almost nothing about this team. I suspect they're building for later, but we shall see.