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Top 15 Most Intriguing Transfers

This is becoming an annual exercise. And note, it's not the most ground-shaking transfers, which would be nothing more than naming the 15 biggest names to switch teams (a.k.a. Astana 2008 preview). Chimps have been trained to do that. And I'm not a chimp.

No, this will hopefully give you something to chew on over the cold, quiet weekend. Also, these are in no particular order.

1. Tom Danielson, Disco → Slipstream

How he'll do: Potentially very well. Danielson's breakout year has been put off enough times to make one wonder if it's ever coming, but the fact is he's a proven climber, and 2008 has been resoundingly declared THE year of the proven climber. He's also not buried on the team depth chart for the first time in forever. If he stays healthy (the holy grail here), Danielson will get way more attention than ever before.

Who else it affects: Mostly his sponsors. They're likely for at least two grand tour invites; given the upward profiles, Danielson might get them some exposure. Really, if he can carry a sorta-fledgling team to a grand tour podium, he might be the single most important rider to any team anywhere.

2. Magnus Backstedt, Liquigas → Slipstream

How he'll do: Good god, who knows? Ask his shoulder. Or his back. Or his knee. But the guy doesn't have a cobble on his bookshelf for nothing. With Slipstream, he'll be set free in Flanders.

Who else it affects: Sponsors (same as above, different events). Swedish fans. Danielson too? Hey, GC guys are going to need some wind protection.

3. Christophe Moreau, AG2R → Agritubel

How he'll do: Hm, his win in the Dauphine was impressive, and his subsequent aggression at the Tour showed he has a lot left in the tank. A strong bet to repeat in June, since the Dauphine is there for the taking and probably represents his peak.

Who else it affects: AG2R. They must be gutted losing him, eh? [Maybe not; see next entry.]

4&5. Vlad Efimkin, Tadej Valjavec → AG2R

How they'll do: Both guys know how to hang around a stage race. In his best-ever season, the 30-year-old Valjavec mastered the art of high GC finishes with almost no conspicuous stage results: 3rd in the Ruta del Sol, 2nd in Valencia, 4th in Paris-Nice, 7th in the Pais Vasco, 9th in the Dauphine and 19th at Le Tour. Efimkin, four years younger, is a vaguely similar rider, albeit with more of a climbers' pedigree after his stage win in the Vuelta trip up to Lagos de Covadonga.

Who else it affects: Lampre. Last man turn out the lights? AG2R may have got less French, but they've always been somewhat international. Now they feature a dynamic, Eastern European stage race duo.

6. Jose Rujano, Unibet → Caisse d'Epargne

How he'll do: A complete enigma. But I recall when he transfered to Unibet writing that he was making a mistake. If he was ever going to realize his potential, shouldn't he find a better fit, starting with no language barrier? Now he's in a Spanish outfit, run by two Spanish cycling masters, and headmanned by some of the country's brightest stars. Good people to be around, and with no pressure. Also, being 120 pounds has never been more of an asset than it will be in 2008. Now or never, Jose.

Who else it affects: Anyone? I suppose if he does really well, he could set off a weight loss fad and put some ice cream vendors out of business.

7. Jeremy Hunt, Unibet → Credit Ag

How he'll do: Gosh, I have no idea. At least he'll be allowed to race. That's gotta help.

Who else it affects: Thor Hushovd. Julian Dean skipped town, so Hunt could serve leadout duties in July. But Hunt is more dynamic than Dean -- he's an accomplished cobbles rider with lots of decent results around Flanders, so he and Hushovd can team up for some early season fun too.

8. Brad McGee, FdJ → CSC

How he'll do: It's been two hard years for the Aussie, a sprinter/chrono power rider with a pretty respectable resume. Let's see, solid rider spends a coupla years wandering in the wilderness, winds up on Riis' doorstep, and presto! Where have we heard this before?

Who else it affects: JJ Haedo, and whoever their GC guy is in the Giro. McGee can take a sprint or help Haedo learn the ropes, depending on whose turn it is. He'll also be a valued asset in any grand tour featuring the TTT.

9. Stijn Devolder, Discovery → Quick Step

How he'll do: Somewhere between complete disappointment and Pro Tour champion. Seriously, the guy can win just about any of the races left on the Grand Tour-less PT calendar. But it's anyone's guess how Quick Step will dole out wins. He's almost certainly his country's best hope (and an A-list candidate) in Beijing, assuming Lefevre lets him go.

Who else it affects: Boonen? Bettini? It depends where they trot him out. He's raced all the April classics, and while his better results have been on the cobbles, he could be useful at worst in the Ardennes.

10. Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery → Stop Snoring Dammit-Lotto

How he'll do: Fabulously. He might even be featured, though given how well he performed in a support role next year perhaps Evans' lieutenant is his true calling. Lotto are short on grand tour riders other than Cadel, so if YaroPop wants it, he'll get a shot at the Giro.

Who else it affects: Evans, duh. Cadel must have been depressed when they lowballed Horner. Bet he's smiling now. Or was, until they announced the grand tour routes.

11. George Hincapie, Discovery → High Road

How he'll do: Assuming good health and the freedom to go Classic-hunting, he should be a contender throughout Flanders-Roubaix week, perhaps for the last time... and with better support. He also seems addicted to the Tour, where he'll do his usual heavy lifting.

Who else it affects: Burghardt, Klier, Eisel and anyone else aspiring to win in early April will need to tamp down their expectations. But if Rogers or Kirchen is ready for a run at the Tour, they couldn't ask for a better teammate.

12. Tomas Lovkvist, FdJ → High Road

How he'll do: Who knows? He's 24 and has been regularly mentioned as a future... something. So far he's demonstrated his time trialling ability, and has been sighted in a variety of road races as well. What his role at team High Road will be, with a stacked roster, is anyone's guess.

Who else it affects: The other Kids. High Road have more green talent than practically the rest of the Pro Tour combined. Whether having them grow up together is a good or bad thing remains to be seen. But Lovkvist should find his place. At least he's not another stage sprinter.

13. Daniele Bennati, Lampre → Liquigas

How he'll do: One of the offseason's more agonizing transfers. He was somewhat in Alessandro Ballan's shadow on the cobbles but was otherwise set free on the flats, so it's hard to see him in a better situation than what he had. But, well, it's not worse either. He and Pippo Pozzato can maybe accomplish in tandem what Benna and Ballan started last spring.

Who else it affects: Ballan must be devastated by the loss of his company. It's not like Lampre replaced him either, for the cobbles or the sprints. The only positive spin is that Napolitano gets more openings. But one Italian classics stud's loss is another's gain. This is an excellent signing for Liquigas and erases the depression from the DiLuca saga. He and Vincenzo Nibali might turn a lot of heads in the Giro too.

14. Gilberto Simoni, Saunier Duval → Selle Italia

How he'll do: I thought he was retiring? Good thing he held off for one last run, since they tailored the Giro to his rather picky tastes.

Who else it affects: Saunier Duval, who can set Ricco free, with Piepoli at his side, and not be tethered to the Gibo sideshow any longer.

15. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Maxbo Bianchi → High Road

How he'll do: Lordy, another uber-talented kid thrown into the High Road hopper. This year is about learning, though what the other 23-year-olds have to teach him is anyone's guess.

Who else it affects: All the other teams who should be developing guys like this.