With transfers in cycling unable to be made official until 1 August, speculation reaches a crescendo during the Tour de France – but the Giro is when it starts building and reports from Italy today link early 2013’s three star riders, Peter Sagan, Chris Froome and Fabian Cancellara, with high-profile moves. BMC Racing is said to be interested in all three.
Spring saw Sagan win his first Classic, Gent Wevelgem, and a spectacular run of results included second place at two Monuments, Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders.
La Gazzetta dello Sport says that puts a €4 million-plus annual salary within his reach, and while Lampre-Merida are said to have made an approach, it puts BMC Racing forward as his most likely destination, but not until 2015.
By that date, you’d imagine either Thor Hushovd or Alessandro Ballan, if not both the former world champions, to have moved on.
With Ivan Basso’s star on the wane and Vincenzo Nibali having departed for Astana at the end of last season, Cannondale are likely to put up a fight – but with Liquigas having ended its sponsorship in 2012, do they have the money?
With RadioShack pulling out of the sport at the end of the year, the man who beat Sagan at Flanders, and then won Paris-Roubaix a week later, Fabian Cancellara, is also at the centre of a rumoured move, perhaps to Swiss Professional Continental outfit IAM, perhaps to BMC.
The Gazzetta, which points out that IAM is still in its infancy and BMC a team that doesn’t attract Cancellara himself, puts forward a third possibility – that Trek will, like BMC and Cannondale, enter the game as headline sponsor itself.
With question marks over the future of RadioShack Leopard, a project built around the Schelck brothers, the rumour is that Trek would guarantee its continuation through a five-year sponsorship, with Luca Guercilena as manager and Cancellara its star rider before moving into a management role at the end of his career.
That brings us to Team Sky, an outfit where, if reports are to be believed, there’s enough dietrologia – the Italian conspiracy theory that events are shaped by unseen hands behind the scenes – going on that it would surely win the approval of controversial former prime minister Giulio Andreotti, who died this week.
While speculation before the Giro surrounded whether Bradley Wiggins was planning to break with supposed team orders during the forthcoming Tour de France and seek to defend his title in earnest rather than support Chris Froome, yesterday the Gazzetta floated the theory that Wiggins himself faced a threat to his own leadership at the Giro in the shape of the Colombian pair of Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao.
It’s a claim that merits some examination, and the pair certainly have more pedigree at the Giro than Wiggins does – both finished in the top ten last season with Uran taking the young rider’s jersey, and each appears better suited to the Giro’s climbs and their specific demands.
There’s little doubt both are potential Grand Tour winners in the future, and the question is, how long will they be prepared to play a supporting role at Sky? Not long, reckons the Gazzetta, which links both with a move to Omega Pharma-Quick Step. That in itself raises another question – how happy would Mark Cavendish be in a team with a credible GC challenger?
If both are unsettled at Sky, their mood won’t have been helped by the confirmation yesterday that Richie Porte’s contract has been extended. The Australian is another former winner of the white jersey at the Giro, and in March succeeded Wiggins as winner of Paris-Nice.
Given his age, and late developer as he is, it would be very unusual if Wiggins were still challenging for victory at a race such as the Tour beyond three years’ time. Porte increasingly looks like he is being groomed as someone who will lead Sky in Grand Tours, who could perhaps target the Giro while Froome aims for the Tour, or vice-versa. That’s bound to leave the Colombians feeling left out in the cold.
So what about Froome? Unlike Wiggins, he has youth on his side, but his future at Sky may depend on what happens in July. Publicly, Sir Dave Brailsford has said Froome is the designated leader, and that’s the end of it. There’s a widespread feeling though that Wiggins isn’t on message. If what many see as a simmering rivalry boils over during the Tour, Brailsford will find it impossible to keep both happy, and will have to make a choice.
If he doesn’t back Froome, then that could pave the way for the rider to leave Sky, and again it’s BMC Racing that the Gazzetta believes could head the queue, although it acknowledges that such a move could ignite tension with Tejay van Garderen, seen as the team’s successor to Cadel Evans as a GC challenger.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.