Transfer round-up: eight of the biggest pro cycling transfers for 2016

Mark Cavendish, Richie Porte and more head for pastures new

With the end of the year on the horizon, pro cycling’s top teams will already be laying the foundations for their 2016 seasons, with a host of big names off to pastures new for the new year.

The transfer merry-go-round has been in full swing this autumn, with GC contenders, big-name sprinters and promising young riders all opting for a change of team.

Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish are just two riders set for new teams in 2016 (Pic: Bruno Bade/ASO)

In fact, there will be nearly 100 WorldTour riders starting 2016 with a different team to 2015 – and if Team Dimension Data (formerly MTN-Qhubeka) are accepted onto the WorldTour that number will break three figures.

Who can we expect to make the biggest impact at their new team, and who should we get used to leading the peloton in a different jersey in 2016?

We’ve rounded up some of the biggest transfers below, and also looked at some of the big-name riders who have extended their contracts with their current teams.

Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep to Team Dimension Data)

Mark Cavendish may have finished 2015 with 14 victories to his name, including his 26th Tour de France stage win, but it was another season which saw his ‘King of the Sprinters’ title slip.

After being beaten four times by Andre Greipel at the Tour de France, Cavendish and Etixx-QuickStep opted to part ways, three years after he left Team Sky to join the Belgian super team.

Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw will ride for Team Dimension Data next season (Pic: The Tour)

Lead-out man Mark Renshaw has also made the switch, with Team Dimension Data now possessing a hugely-impressive sprint train.

Tour of Britain winner Edvald Boasson Hagen, Tyler Farrar and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg were impressive as a sprint line-up in 2015 but appeared to lack that one big sprinter to turn top-fives into stage victories.

And in Cavendish and Renshaw they have not one, but two of the best in the business.

At 30, Cavendish has plenty of years left if he can recapture his best form, and with Team Sky’s Bernie Eisel also bound for Team Dimension Data he has a great chance of doing just that next year.

All that remains to be seen is whether Dimension Data become the 18th WorldTour team in 2016 – thus granting them a guaranteed place at all the biggest races – though they appear to be near-guaranteed wildcards to most of them anyway.

Richie Porte (Team Sky to BMC Racing)

Rumours Richie Porte would be leaving Team Sky at the end of his contract this winter were rife almost from the moment his season started at the Tour Down Under.

Unable to fulfil his GC ambitions at Team Sky, where he had helped first Bradley Wiggins and then, twice, Chris Froome to Tour de France victories, Porte has moved to BMC Racing – having come close to signing for the American team before he joined Sky in 2012.

Richie Porte will ride for BMC Racing in 2016 (Pic: Sirotti)

Porte’s time with Sky has been a huge success story, with those Tour de France wins for Wiggins and Froome complemented by plenty of big wins of his own – two overall Paris-Nice titles his crowning achievements.

– Exclusive Richie Porte interview: “I leave Team Sky without a bad thing to say about them” –

Porte’s 2015 season saw the 30-year-old Australian enjoy three overall victories in all – Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya and Giro del Trentino – and but for injury and misfortune, he may have proved his Grand Tour credentials at the Giro d’Italia too.

The move, however, will see him join forces with Tejay van Garderen at BMC Racing, spearheading a two-pronged GC attack at the Tour de France, and if he can start the season as well as he started 2015 it could prove to be a very fruitful move.

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin to Etixx-QuickStep)

Rewind 12 months and you would not have seen this one coming – in fact, rewind just a couple of months and it seemed highly unlikely, not least because Marcel Kittel was still under contract until next year.

But the German powerhouse sprinter has endured a miserable year, beset by injury and illness, which ultimately led to him missing the Tour de France.

Marcel Kittel’s season was wrecked by illness, prompting his move to Etixx-QuickStep (pic: Sirotti)

His relationship with Giant-Alpecin went downhill rapidly from there, and the two parties agreed to end a partnership which brought ten Grand Tour stage wins between 2013 and 2014 a year early.

Etixx-QuickStep, with a Mark Cavendish-sized hole to fill in their sprinting arsenal, stepped forward to snap up the 27-year-old’s signature.

And with Colombian sprinting ace Fernando Gaviria also signing on after finishing the year as a stagiaire, you can expect the Belgian super team to be targeting something close to the 54 victories they earned in 2015 again next year.

Indeed, the team boss Patrick Lefevere has been busy during the off-season, and Daniel Martin’s addition also strengthens the squad’s Ardennes Classics and GC ambitions.

Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka to Lampre-Merida)

Tenth at the Vuelta a Espana, Louis Meintjes has bags of potential – and to MTN-Qhubeka’s disappointment he’s opted to move on from the African team in order to fulfill that.

The South African, 23, has proved he can climb with the best in the business and also showed great strength of character in 2015, not least in finishing fifth on stage 12 of the Tour de France despite being battered and bruised from an earlier crash.

Louis Meintjes disappointed his MTN-Qhubeka bosses when he chose to sign for Lampre-Merida (Pic: Sirotti)

MTN-Qhubeka (to be re-named Team Dimension Data in 2016) publicly voiced their disappointment at losing Meintjes and their loss is very much Lampre-Merida’s gain.

The Italian team hasn’t had too much to shout about in recent years, though four Giro d’Italia stage wins – courtesy of Sacha Modolo (2), Jan Polanc and Diego Ulissi – as well as a Tour de France stage win for Rubén Plaza and Vuelta victories for Plaza and Nelson Oliveira made the 2015 Grand Tour campaign a fruitful one.

Meintjes’ addition, though he still has much to prove, could lay the foundations for them improving Lampre-Merida’s GC hopes too.

Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale to Movistar)

The story of Carlos Betancur’s last 24 months is an odd one to say the least – on top of the world after winning Paris-Nice in 2014, he then missed a flight to France for the Criterium du Dauphine, complaining of illness, missed the Tour de France as a result, lost his form and fitness, and parted ways with Ag2r-La Mondiale in August 2015 after failing to impress this year.

In between, however, he still managed a top-20 finish at the Giro d’Italia which, while nothing like his fifth place in 2013, showed he has plenty of talent.

Carlos Betancur will hope his move to Movistar helps him recapture the form he showed at Paris-Nice in 2014 (Pic: P.Perreve/ASO)

The 26-year-old will now look to prove that at Movistar, with the Spanish team offering Betancur a fresh start by adding him to their fiercely-strong climbing line-up.

With Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde leading the way, individual opportunities may be thin on the ground to start with but, along with fellow new boy Daniel Moreno, who has signed from Katusha, Betancur will have a hugely important role to play.

A supporting spot at the Grand Tours and Ardennes Classics is most likely, but if he can seize his opportunity at a week-long stage race in between, like Paris-Nice, the future is still bright for the Colombian.

Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep to Cannondale-Garmin)

Another Colombian on the move is Rigoberto Uran, who is one of a number of big-name riders to part company with Etixx-QuickStep.

A disappointing season saw Uran struggle to replicate the form he showed in earning back-to-back Giro d’Italia runners-up spots in 2013 and 2014, and he will ride for Cannondale-Garmin next season.

Rigoberto Uran will join Pierre Rolland in spear-heading Cannondale-Garmin’s new GC line-up (Pic: Sirotti)

In fact, it’s all change for Cannondale-Garmin in terms of their GC ambitions with Dan Martin moving the other way to Uran and Ryder Hesjedal on the move to Trek Factory Racing, while Pierre Rolland (from Europcar) joins Uran at Jonathan Vaughters’ team.

Uran, 28, has those two Giro podiums to his name, while Rolland, 29, comes with four Grand Tour top-tens to his name.

Add the already contracted Andrew Talansky into the mix and you have a team who will be well worth watching in 2016.

Laurens ten Dam (LottoNL-Jumbo to Giant-Alpecin)

Compared to some of the big-name moves, Laurens ten Dam’s switch to Giant-Alpecin may not have registered as highly on some people’s radars but it is a significant move nonetheless.

Tom Dumoulin’s valiant attempt to claim an unlikely red jersey at the Vuelta a Espana, which ended only on the penultimate stage, showed the team lack top climbers to support their GC men.

Laurens ten Dam will bolster Giant-Alpecin’s GC line-up at Grand Tours (Pic: Sirotti)

And, with Warren Barguil and Dumoulin both signing new contracts to underline Giant-Shimano’s new GC focus in the wake of Marcel Kittel’s departure, the arrival of ten Dam adds plenty of climbing talent – and could also see him rekindle his own GC ambitions.

The Dutchman, 34, has enjoyed top ten finishes at both the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana and is capable of doing so again.

And with Kittel and Luka Mezgec out of the door, it appears as though Giant-Alpecin, while they still have John Degenkolb in tow, will be gearing their future ambitions to high overall placings rather than sprint stage wins.

Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep to Team Sky)

Team Sky have been very busy this autumn, with several big-name signings who could have a big impact in 2016.

First among those is former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski, who will bolster their Ardennes Classics line-up and also offer a very realistic option for week-long stage races as Team Sky continue in their bid to become the undisputed best team in the world – all season long.

Michal Kwiatkowski is off to Team Sky for 2016 (Pic: Tim de Waele/EQS)

Kwiatkowski is joined as a new face at Sky by Benat Intxausti and Mikel Landa too, who will bolster Sky’s climbing unit immensely.

Landa’s form at the Giro d’Italia, where he finished third, and his support for Fabio Aru’s successful Vuelta a Espana highlighted his strengths.

With three Grand Tour stage wins too, it has been a great season for the Spaniard and his addition – alongside that of Intxausti and Kwiatkowski – will more than compensate for the departure of Richie Porte to BMC Racing.

…and ten riders who are going nowhere

Tom Dumoulin has put his faith in Giant-Alpecin by signing a new contract with the team (pic: Sirotti)

There are plenty of top riders who are staying put this winter, with the aforementioned Tom Dumoulin and Warren Barguil just two examples of those sticking with the tried and tested and signing new deals.

The Giant-Alpecin duo clearly have faith in their team’s GC capabilities and will hope to improve on their respective top-ten showings at the Vuelta a Espana in 2015 and 2014 respectively.

Other young GC hopefuls staying put are Orica-GreenEDGE trio Adam Yates, Simon Yates and Johan Esteban Chaves.

The British twins enjoyed another stellar year, with Adam winning the Clasica San Sebastian and Simon the best young rider at the Criterium du Dauphine and both announced way back in June they had signed a one-year contract extension – ending speculation of a move to Sky.

Chaves, meanwhile, was fifth at the Vuelta a Espana and ended the season with victory at the Abu Dhabi Tour.

In a winter which has seen two of the world’s best sprinters move, Alexander Kristoff was able to relax, after signing on for another season at Katusha back in the summer.

Joaquim Rodriguez will also stick with the Russian team for another season, which he confirmed during the Tour de France and then celebrated with second place at the Vuelta a Espana.

The man who beat him at the Vuelta, Fabio Aru, also signed a new deal in the summer – tying him to Astana for another two seasons.

Away from the Grand Tours, the string of high-profile departures at Etixx-QuickStep doesn’t extend to their Classics squad – 35-year-old Tom Boonen having committed to another season at the end of August, joining Zdenek Stybar, who penned his new two-year contract in July.

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