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It’s only February, but the 2022-23 transfer season is already heating up.
One WorldTour boss tells VeloNews that he’s already received lists of available riders from eight agents since the start of January.
Over the next few months, cycling’s transfer market will only intensify as teams jostle for the best athletes. It promises to be a busy transfer market, and there are more than 200 WorldTour riders on the market.
VeloNews takes an in-depth look at both the key rosters and the factors that will determine the behind-the-scenes negotiations in the coming months. Here are some of the key takeaways:
More than 200 riders on the market
First off, there is a broad spectrum of talent on the lookout for new deals, including some of the elite men’s peloton’s biggest names.
Richard Carapaz, Tom Dumoulin, Nairo Quintana, Romain Bardet, and Enric Mas are the top grand tour riders on the market, while Mark Cavendish, Jasper Philipsen, and Tim Merlier lead the charge for the sprinters.
Jasper Stuyven, Dylan van Baarle, and Mads Pedersen are among the classics riders available, while there are several strong all-rounders available, including the Yates brothers, Bob Jungels, and Bauke Mollema.
Deals are already being discussed, and several teams, including Israel-Premier Tech, Lotto-Soudal, UAE Team Emirates, and BikeExchange-Jayco, all having up to a dozen potentially available slots for 2023.
Something distinct about next season? There isn’t a major, blue-chip rider up for grabs, such as a Tadej Pogačar or a Wout van Aert, and that’s important for several reasons.
A major star of that ilk often packs the power to stop the entire market in its tracks as teams fight for the marquee name that it can build a roster around.
Without that aspect, this season’s market could become frantic with deals in motion well before the classics. Officially, riders cannot sign contracts with competing teams until the UCI’s August 1 deadline, but in reality, that rule is somewhat meaningless as riders and their agents can sign letters of intent at any point during contract negotiations.
Next round of WorldTour licenses spice up market
One of the other major drivers in the market will be the latest round of WorldTour licenses to be awarded for 2023-2025.
The UCI is set to introduce a new, somewhat controversial ranking and relegation system that could see several teams in the current top-tier of the men’s sport possibly drop out.
There are no new teams on the horizon hoping to make the bump to the WorldTour, and with the top league remaining at this year’s 18-team lineup, the current crop of teams might not see any relegation at all.
Teams, however, are taking nothing for granted.
Second-tier teams Alpecin-Fenix, Arkéa Samsic, and TotalEnergies are all possible contenders for a WorldTour spot in 2023, although it’s still not clear if any of those teams have applied yet.
Next year’s WorldTour will include 18 teams, and the rankings will be decided by the points from the top-10 riders from each team over the last three years, with points calculated from all races, not just the WorldTour.
Some team staffers that VeloNews spoke with are still confused about some of the rules and their possible impacts but UCI regulations currently state that points cannot be transfered away from the team that they were earned on.
The ‘big three’ continue to dominate
Money talks in cycling, and the peloton’s three wealthiest teams — Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo Visma, and UAE Team Emirates — set the tone if they’re active or not.
When it comes to the superpowers of the peloton, all three are facing different scenarios.
Pogačar’s team strengthened the Slovenian’s flanks substantially in the off-season, but the squad from the Gulf still has roughly a dozen riders out of contract, with Davide Formolo, Fernando Gaviria, Rui Costa, Diego Ulissi, Ryan Gibbons, Matteo Trentin, and Rafal Majka all up for grabs.
The arrival of Pascal Ackermann could influence whether Gaviria is surplus to requirement going forward, while Formolo may use this year as a chance to land a spot on a rival team with more opportunities. Trentin will be looking to get wins on the board early, and his consistency could see him being one of the sought-after riders.
Jumbo-Visma let go of Dylan Groenewegen and George Bennett in the winter, and welcomed in Rohan Dennis and a raft of classics riders, but it’s Tom Dumoulin who leads their out-of-contract riders.
A strong Giro d’Italia will certainly raise the Dutchman’s price, and rumors of a switch to BikeExchange — due to Giant’s involvement — have been circulating since last autumn. Such a move would, however, involve the Australian team gaining more investment or losing one of their marque riders.
Mike Teunissen, Timo Roosen, and David Dekker are among Jumbo-Visma’s other riders winding down their contracts, and the team’s recruitment is likely to focus on youth and building around its current leaders.
And then there’s Ineos Grenadiers, the richest team in the peloton.
The team will see several riders on the market. Contrary to initial reports, Daniel Martínez isn’t one of them, but Adam Yates, Andrey Amador, Dylan van Baarle, Eddie Dunbar, and Richard Carapaz are all free.
The recovery and long-term health of Egan Bernal will be a major factor in terms of who stays and goes. Rival teams had been monitoring the situation around Carapaz, but several team bosses have expressed doubt over the Olympic champion’s chances of leaving, should the British face unanswered questions over Bernal’s comeback.
Belgians play a different role
Last spring, one of the key players in the market was Patrick Lefevere as he sweated out the team’s sponsorship future. Most of his riders at that time were in the final year of their contracts, but that’s not the case this time around.
That means the Belgian’s significance in the market will be far more subtle, with only a handful of his riders free at the end of the season. They include Mark Cavendish, Zdeněk Štybar, and Yves Lampaert, but the majority of Quick-Step’s stars have another year left on their terms.
Lefevere can still influence the market, and he has the potential to drive up prices for some of his rivals but this is likely to be a season of stability for Quick-Step.
It’s a different situation at Lotto-Soudal, where roughly half the team is out of contract in the next 12 months. The Belgian squad has already tied down Caleb Ewan to another long-term deal after rival squads began to inquire about his services. Tim Wellens, Matthew Holmes, Thomas De Gendt, and Roger Kluge are all without deals for 2023.
WorldTour points are what count
“It’s all going to be about WorldTour points,” one high-profile agent said.
“I think it’s going to be massive. A lot of teams are going to try and chase WorldTour points so they can stay up. Two teams could lose their current licenses. It’s clear in my opinion that Alpecin Fenix will move up, and then there are teams like TotalEnergies, who also have a chance. Arkéa might try, too.”
Along with the points rankings, the UCI will also consider ethical and the financial stabilities of teams before making a final decision on WorldTour licenses, but the points will certainly be a key aspect given that they’re far less vague of criteria.
The UCI already shared a document with teams that lists the teams by their ranking points over the last three years.
Quick-Step, Jumbo Visma, Ineos Grenadiers, and UAE Team Emirates hog the top spots, but Alpecin is eighth and Arkéa sits 18th. DirectEnergie, which signed Peter Sagan would likely need to sign another big name or have an incredible year in order to push for a spot, but Israel-Premier Tech, Intermarché, Cofidis, and Lotto-Soudal are under pressure.
Whatever happens with the points system, the transfer market is already up and running. Long gone are the days of team managers huddling with agents around the bar on the rest days at the Tour de France.
The peloton’s annual game of musical chairs is now a year-round proposition.
Headline riders out of contract for 2023:
Lilian Calmejane, Bob Jungels, Larry Warbasse, Clement Champoussin, Vincenzo Nibali, Stefan de Bod, Heinrich Haussler, Phil Bauhaus, Dylan Teuns, Lennard Kamna, Wilco Kelderman, Lukas Postlberger, Alex Howes, Sebastian Langeveld, Rigoberto Uran, Richie Porte, Adam Yates, Eddie Dunbar, Andrey Amador, Richard Carapaz, Dylan Van Baarle, Simon Clarke, Daryl Impey, Patrick Bevin, Alex Dowsett, Chris Harper, Tom Dumoulin, Mike Teunissen, David Dekker, Matt Holmes, Tim Wellens, Enric Mas, Alejandro Valverde, Mark Cavendish, Zdenek Stybar, Yves Lampaert, Michael Matthews, Lucas Hamilton, Simon Yates, Soren Kragh Andersen, Romain Bardet, Bauke Mollema, Jasper Stuyven, Mads Pedersen, Davide Formolo, Fernando Gaviria, Rui Costa, Matteo Trentin, Tim Merlier, Jasper Philipsen, Nairo Quintana, Warren Barguil, and Niki Terpstra.