Transfer Period Opens – Win, Lose, or Draw

I’m no Burt Reynolds or Dom DeLuise, but I know a good game of Win, Lose, or Draw when I see one. Yesterday gave us our first chance to sketch-out some team rosters for 2010. So, let’s pick-up a marker and head to the easel:

First, the Winners:
1. BMC has to be considered the major winner of the 2009 transfer season having assembled a top-notch Classics squad. Alessandro Ballan brings talent and panache along with his palmares; Marcus Burghart is a man for the future (who’s already happened to have won several races). George Hincapie comes to provide the experience necessary to guide the rest to victory year-round. Look for Ballan to make the push for Flanders, Burghart for Ghent-Wevelgem, and Hincapie for Roubaix. And don’t forget Karsten Kroon—he’s no slouch either and could bring the team another win a week after Roubaix at the Amstel Gold Race. Overall, it was a pretty impressive haul for Jim Ochowicz and John Lelangue. Now they must hope for the invitations they need to get their riders in the best races. With this roster, it shouldn’t be a problem.

2. The next winner is Liquigas, who won simply by staying put. They announced that the bulk of their roster is staying-put, including wunderkinds Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger. Even Ivan Basso returns for another year in the green and blue, perhaps spurning an offer to ride with Lance at Radio Shack? Kuchynski and Quinziato remain for the Classics, along with talented domestiques like Willems and Vandborg. And don’t forget Franco Pellisotti, he’ll be back as well. Sometimes the best moves are the ones not made, I guess.

And now, the Losers:
1. Lampre should be chided for letting Ballan go. For an Italian team, losing homegrown talent has to be considered a disappointment. His replacement? Alessandro Petacchi. Sure, he’ll bring stage wins in the Giro, but he’s getting older, is no stranger to scandal, and he was probably overpaid. What’s Saronni thinking?

2. It was inevitable; Columbia-HTC had to start losing sometime. With so much talent, choices had to be made. Right now, Burghart, Hincapie, and Kirchen are the biggest names to depart, but Edvald Boassen Hagen and Thomas Lokvist are likely to leave as well. Columbia’s re-stocked a bit, signing young talent from around the world as well as up-and-comers like Martin and Peter Velits. But the riders they lose will leave a mark in the win column for sure, especially Hincapie, whose guidance and veteran leadership will be missed in the Classics and the Tour.

These teams get a Draw:
1. Team Sky certainly wants to make a splash, choosing to wait a week or so to announce it’s full roster—maybe to finalize a few more names, perhaps to ensure the spotlight’s all their own. Rumors are swirling as to whom they’ll sign, with Boassen Hagen and Simon Gerrans topping the list. Whenever it happens, it will be exciting to see the final shape of the UK’s first Pro Tour team. Until that time though, judgment must be reserved.

2. Garmin made some noise, signing young talent and some classics help in the form of Johan Vansummeren. That said, I was hoping for more. They need a rider with the talent and experience necessary to help the younger guys start to win bigger races. Vansummeren might bring that, but it’s hard to tell given the role he played at Silence-Lotto. For now they get a draw, but if they don’t start contending in the Monuments soon or hit the podium at the Tour, it could turn-out to be a loss.

3. Radio Shack made a splash from the Tour to now, but let’s look at their signings objectively. Clearly, this is a team for Lance. He’s surrounded himself with dedicated riders willing to sacrifice their own aspirations for his sake. But honestly, does Lance have the legs left to match his ambition? I think not. Radio Shack will come to the Tour fully loaded, but if Lance can’t hang with the other favorites, which rider will pick-up the mantle? Levi? Popo? And what about the Classics? Yes, Geert Steegmans is a talented rider and well-suited to the Northern races, but he’s very inconsistent and has never shown the ability to deliver as a protected rider. So for now, The Shack gets a draw, but like Slipstream, time will tell the true merits of its acquisitions.

Otherwise, it was a relatively quiet September 1st.

What about you? Which teams did I miss? Share your thoughts below.

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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