clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2021 Team Trends: A Superficial, Relative Assessment

New, 61 comments

Who won or lost the offseason? A brief primer

75th Tour of Spain 2020 - Stage Eighteen Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Just busting through the offseason doldrums, wondering when racing is going to... oh wait, there’s racing right now? Kinda maybe? Something in New Zealand? Well, hope springs anew and the GP La Marseillaise hasn’t said no yet. Also the Volta Valenciana is insisting on carrying on. So it won’t be the offseason much longer.

This means little time is left for us to put out a raft of offseason capsules, the in-depth team-by-team reviews we have done in the past, but I thought it’d be fun to do a shortened version of this, covering all the World Tour teams. Rather than serving as a complete update on a team, this format’s intent is to give a flavour of which teams shifted up or down the pecking order, on paper at least, in relative terms. I tried this for one of SBNation’s basketball sites and so why not give it a whirl here?

AG2R-Citroën

WT/Sponsor Status? Added Citroën as a sponsor, maker of western Europe’s most consistently ugly cars. It’s kind of a flex for both. Nobody leans into their style like Citroën, and for a French team to join forces with the world’s only “we’re so French we don’t care what you think” car maker... I am talking myself into liking this.

Incoming Riders: Bob Jungels, Greg Van Avermaet, Gijs Van Hecken, Lilian Calmejane, Michael Schar, ...

Outgoing Riders: Romain Bardet, Sylvan Dillier, Alexander Geniez, Quentin Jauregui, etc.

Verdict? ↑⇿

Going with a mixed verdict. Losing Bardet opened space for Jungels and Van Avermaet (plus some Team CCC refugees) to become the new face of the team. They’re betting on Bardet to not discover the fountain of youth, not that there is much room for good-not-great Tour specialists now anyway. Van Avermaet steps into a solid classics structure where he no longer has to do everything, including the last part of the race. Champoussin and Parent-Peintre are intriguing but probably not major movers right now.

Astana-Premier Tech

WT/Sponsor Status? Escaped from what seemed like their inevitable dissolution like a NASCAR driver who crawls out of a burning wreck with nary a scratch. A Canadian company who does yadda yadda yadda has stepped in. Deciphering who actually runs the team is more complex than explaining the Belgian government. Despite all that, it’s now one of the longer running teams, which will give them stability going forward.

Incoming Riders: Matteo Sobrero, Samuele Battistella, Andrea Piccolo, Javier Romo

Outgoing Riders: Miguel Angel Lopez, Lauren De Vreese

Verdict?

The highlight of their offseason was continuing to exist, which I would guess made it hard to sign anyone. They aren’t swimming in sparkling, young talent either. So let’s call this a slight loss, in the person of the disappointing but still productive Lopez.

Deceuninck-Quick Step

WT/Sponsor Status? Status quo. Moving on...

Incoming Riders: Mark Cavendish, Josef Cerny

Outgoing Riders: Bob Jungels

Verdict? ⇿

Few teams changed as little as Quick Step, who replaced an unnecessary Jungels with an aging Cav. You could argue for a down arrow here given how much value they squeezed out of their current roster, sometimes far beyond expectations (I’m looking at you, Joao Almeida). Bagioli could be something much more than we saw last year but everyone else we know already.

75th Tour of Spain 2020 - Stage Eighteen Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

EF Education-Nippo

WT/Sponsor Status? Like Astana, EF spent much of last year staring into the abyss before Nippo came to the rescue. Nippo had sponsored the Nippo-Fantini team for almost a decade, then last year a small French outfit Nippo Delko Provence. Like Astana, their long history and ongoing management team will buoy things.

Incoming Riders: Michael Valgren, William Barta, Diego Camargo

Outgoing Riders: Sean Bennett, Simon Clarke, Kristoffer Halvorsen, Dani Martinez, Sep Vanmarcke, Michael Woods

Verdict? ↓↓

Another team which may have struggled a bit during a crazy market for contracts, given their sponsorship travails. Nobody will be shocked if in six months it turns out that the boatload of young talent they brought in more than made up for the riders they saw depart, but for now I’ll pump the brakes and just point out that... they lost a lot of talent.

Lotto-Soudal

WT/Sponsor Status? No notable changes.

Incoming Riders: Filippo Conca, Maxim van Gils, Harrison Sweeny

Outgoing Riders: Sander Armee, Stan DeWulf, Carl Frederik Hagen, Adam Hansen, Niklas Maes, Jelle Wallays

Verdict? ↑⇿

I don’t see any names of riders who will be missed. At the same time, they are betting big on youth, and that’s never entirely certain, but I don’t see any reason to complain about their direction.

Movistar

WT/Sponsor Status? Change? Change??

Incoming Riders: Ivan Garcia, Miguel Angel Lopez, Abner Gonzalez

Outgoing Riders: Jurgen Roelands, Eduardo Sepulveda

Verdict? ↑

Tepid support for their offseason; the bigger changes happened last year with the paring of Landa and Nairo and adding Mas plus another bevy of youngsters. Lopez is at something of a crossroads, but with less pressure than he had at Astana, maybe this is the right place.

Jumbo-Visma

WT/Sponsor Status? Ain’t broke, not gettin fixed.

Incoming Riders: Eduardo Affini, Sam Oomen, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Gijs Leemreize

Outgoing Riders: Laurens De Plus, Amund Grondahl Jansen, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Taco van der Hoorn

Verdict? ↑

The rich get ever so slightly richer... or that was the story, until Tom Dumoulin had the was brave enough to admit that being a pro cyclist kinda sucks sometimes. The team’s other headache is Dylan Groenewegen. But this is a post about offseason changes, and neither of these guys was driving the ship. Dumoulin was seventh at the Tour but overshadowed by not just Roglic but Wout Van Aert. Oomen can fill his shoes as a support rider, which they already had plenty of.

UAE Emirates

WT/Sponsor Status? Still secretly Italian.

Incoming Riders: Marc Hirschi, Rafal Majka, Matteo Trentin

Outgoing Riders: Fabio Aru, Sergio Henao, Jasper Philipsen

Verdict? ↑↑↑

Massive offseason, capped by the late-breaking Hirschi hire. Yes, losing Philipsen isn’t great, but Trentin can cover some sprints, while maybe Gaviria, now mercifully vaccinated, can cover the rest. As to anything with a hill, they are so, so loaded, and just getting started. Bjerg and Ardila are two massive oncoming talents. Between Ulissi and Hirschi they could win a dozen grand tour stages and/or classics, assuming they don’t escort Pogacar to the line instead. They were already great, but between the additions and the continued development they are rocketing upward.

[Feel free to look back on my recent guide to all the young talent, so I don’t have to repeat their names here.]

75th Tour of Spain 2020 - Stage Seventeen Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Groupama-FDJ

WT/Sponsor Status? Still putting the “mad” in Madiot.

Incoming Riders: Matteo Badilatti, Attila Valter

Outgoing Riders: Killian Frankiny, Marc Sarreau

Verdict? ↑

Pretty much nothing bad happened, and Valter flashed some climbing chops at Sestriere. They have a couple other kids I like (Guglielmi, Brunel) so I’d move them up a tick or two.

INEOS Grenadiers

WT/Sponsor Status? Conversion happened before/during last season, and even then it was just in the branding.

Incoming Riders: Laurens De Plus, Dani Martinez, Richie Porte, Adam Yates

Outgoing Riders: Chris Froome, Christian Knees, Christopher Lawless

Verdict? ↑↑

Goddammit. Of course, Froome will be written about like he’s the story, but in his wake is an INEOS team that is just so unbelievably stocked to the brim with young talent — and now some more ultradomestiques in Porte and Yates — that I don’t even feel like talking about them anymore.

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux

WT/Sponsor Status? Do World Tour teams ever die? I guess the answer is in the eye of the beholder. The WT itself resembles the Buddhist concept of death, where the spirit — in this case a WT license — just departs one corpse and enters a new body. This team was CCC last year and BMC the year before. In theory, this is a whole new unit, a separate team (Wanty Groupe Gobert) taking over another team’s license. But the team, headed by Jean-Francois Boulart, is keeping long-time BMC head Jim Ochowicz around, so this is really a mashup.

Incoming Riders: Jan Hirt, Louis Meintjes, Georg Zimmerman, Taco van der Hoorn

Outgoing Riders: Xandro Meurisse, Yoann Offredo

Verdict? ↑

This is an odd one, because the fairest thing to do here is to compare their trend to their last iteration (Wanty) rather than comparing this team to the CCC squad that last had the license. In the former case, they are upshifting to a WT squad, and the incoming riders are likely to contribute to their slow rise. Alternatively, CCC was 22nd in wins last year, so they don’t have the biggest shoes to fill.

Trek Segafredo

WT/Sponsor Status? A veritable rock of continuity.

Incoming Riders: Jakob Egholm, Antonio Tiberi

Outgoing Riders: Richie Porte, William Clarke

Verdict? ⇿

I just want to say that Porte is awesome. For him to be so solid last year, bagging third at the Tour — his first time on a grand tour podium — after so many efforts and disappointments, was just a secretly wonderful thing. Now he scurries off to INEOS for a payday, and I might criticize some guys for taking a lesser role on a bigger team, but after all the times Porte has trained himself into top fitness and got nothing from it, well, he can do whatever the hell he wants now. Trek have a wide range of outcomes this year but the two additional kids are promising.

Team BikeExchange

WT/Sponsor Status? Gone is the Mitchelton-Scott name, but the changeover to BikeExchange is superficial, as the new main sponsor, a gear seller, had been a minor sponsor of the GreenEdge team, bonded over their shared disdain for spaces between words.

Incoming Riders: Kevin Colleoni, Tanel Kangert, Michael Matthews

Outgoing Riders: Eduardo Affini, Adam Yates, Jack Haig, Darryl Impey

Verdict? ↑↑

TBE swapped out the lesser Yates while hanging on to the one who won a Vuelta a couple years ago. That, along with all the young talent around, is probably no loss at all, and maybe the promise of real improvement. Then add in Matthews, a useful classics rider and Tour stage hunter, plus Kangert and his 15 years of climbing quality, and the worst case seems to be mild improvement.

84th La Fleche Wallonne 2020 - Men Elite Photo by Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images

Team DSM

WT/Sponsor Status? Like Team BikeExchange, this is a title sponsor change (formerly Sunweb) and not much else. DSM is a big, confusing Dutch company that makes a million things that end up in people’s stomachs. Still the Iwan Spekenbrink team though.

Incoming Riders: Kevin Vermaerke, Andreas Leknessund, Marco Brenner, Romain Bardet

Outgoing Riders: Marc Hirschi, Wilco Kelderman, Michael Matthews, Sam Oomen, Robert Power

Verdict?

A complete disaster... is what I would say based on a superficial reading of the transfers, because good God that is a lot of talent riding off into the Sunwebset. Bardet coming on board for a career reset sounds like one of those feel-good moves that doesn’t actually do any good. Kelderman and Oomen are guys who can both help their guy and threaten the others. It’s bad, it’s bad, it’s bad. All that said, Jai Hindley is a grand tour contender at the ripe old age of 25, and they have eight other guys on my list of 50 riders to watch, including Alberto Dainese who should get results this year, and Vermaerke, another hopeful American(!) talent. If you’re a team with ambitions that exceed your budget, you have to keep betting on youth. But they could try a little harder to not chase off good riders. Hirschi’s departure was a complete shitshow.

Team Qhubeka Assos

WT/Sponsor Status? The divorce from Dimension Data is now complete, as long-time South African sponsor Qhubeka brings in Swiss clothier Assos for some sweet, sweet threads (and presumably money for team expenses). On the rider side, they are undergoing a massive overhaul.

Incoming Riders: 17 guys, including Aru, Henao, Power

Outgoing Riders: 19 guys, including Boasson Hagen, Gasparotto, Kreuziger, Meintjes, Valgren, Mader

Verdict? ↓↓

Obviously this kind of reshuffling the deck is borne of necessity, so I won’t criticize them for getting worse in terms of race-winning-ready talent. And it’s not like they lost everyone; Nizzolo was great last year. But Gino Mader’s transfer to Bahrain hits their longer term plans pretty hard.

Team Bahrain Victorious

WT/Sponsor Status? The name change reflects the departure of McLaren, who never seemed too committed to cycling anyway. No additional sponsors are coming in at the name level, because the team’s budget is about what you’d find in the sofa cushions in the waiting room at the Bahrain government offices. But they did drop Rod Ellingworth for Rolf Aldag, which is significant, although maybe not a bad thing.

Incoming Riders: Mader, Jack Haig, Jonathan Milan

Outgoing Riders: Mark Cavendish, Ivan Garcia

Verdict? ⇿

Honestly, of their changes nothing excites me besides Mader and Milan, the former of which is ready now (Milan probably is a few years away). But counting on Mader is maybe a bit much just yet.

Bora-Hansgrohe

WT/Sponsor Status? Status Quohe.

Incoming Riders: Wilco Kelderman, Jordi Meeus, Giovanni Aleotti, Nils Politt

Outgoing Riders: Jempy Drucker, Oscar Gatto, Rafal Majka

Verdict? ↑⇿

Kelderman gives them an immediate Giro-Vuelta contender, or joins with Buchmann, Schachmann and Kamna to give them some sort of vaguely threatening horde, where if one of them gets hot it could mean a podium place. Nothing wrong with that. Meeus could quietly blend in with Sagan and Ackerman for some sneak attacks.

75th Tour of Spain 2020 - Stage Fifteen Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Cofidis

WT/Sponsor Status? Cofidis are tied with FDJ as the longest-running sponsor in the WT, dating back to 1997. They did bail from the WT for a couple seasons but returned last year as the newly-restructured team under Cedric Vasseur. No changes this year.

Incoming Riders: Thomas Champion, Jelle Wallays, Jempy Drucker, Andre Carvalho

Outgoing Riders: Dimitri Claeys, Luis Angel Mate

Verdict? ⇿

They didn’t do anything to emerge from the shadows of the WT. Champion is intriguing but not overnight.

Israel Start-up Nation

WT/Sponsor Status? Formerly Israel Cycling Academy, they added Startup Nation, which is some sort of entrepreneurship support thingy, as a sponsor. The end result is something that makes Israel sound like a new venture, something which hasn’t been true since 1947. Anyway, the name isn’t new for this season, but they did hire Cherie Pridham as a sports director, which is a first for the sport.

Incoming Riders: Patrick Bevin, Chris Froome, Daryl Impey, Sep Vanmarcke, Michael Woods

Outgoing Riders: Daniel Navarro, Nils Politt

Verdict? ↑↑

Nobody did as much to change their makeup overnight like ISUN did by signing Froomey. For a couple years now their roster has seemed kind of thrown together, and that may continue to be the case, but who cares, Froome puts them right into the thick of things. My guess is that they can give him enough support to be reasonably legit. Sep is a good domestique when not almost winning cobbled races, and Woods is a veteran with upside. That alone might make their next transfer season even more promising. I’m not saying they’re a great team yet, but they are coming from the back of the field and definitely moving up.

****

OK, so my biggest improvements would be UAE, followed by INEOS, Team BikeExchange and Israel Start-Up Nation. Biggest dropoffs would be EF and Qhubeka, proving that it’s hard to follow in Tyler Farrar’s shoes? Anyway, those are the relative movements. In general I would opine that there wasn’t a huge amount of change this year in transfer season. The majority of teams don’t look terribly different on paper than they did before. The bigger top-line story remains the continued influx and development of young guys. And the transfer of the year has to be HIrschi, whose absence at Sunweb/DSM is a bummer. The rich (Ineos, Jumbo, UAE) remain rich, but the middle class has guys who can make things fun. Feel free to fill in any blanks here.