The pro cycling transfer season has been and gone for another year. Which means, in readiness for 2021, riders are now on different teams, wearing different kits, and spreading confusion the length and breadth of the continent.
When a footballer swaps team we cotton on easily. We see them in their new colours, recalibrate, and mentally move on. This doesn’t work in cycling. No-one really knows why, but scientists suggest the sheer mental bandwidth required to service a cycling fandom leaves little room for a post-season re-jig.
If you’re processing Nico Roche’s bizarre accent, whilst simultaneously trying to pigeon-hole Wout van Aert, hold an opinion on EF Pro Cycling’s Giro d’Italia kit, and keep up to date with the latest twenty-year old previously unheard of immediate Grand Tour contender, then all kinds of important stuff is just not getting dealt with.
Rider transfers, for example.Embed from Getty Images
In a corner of my mind, although I know Tom Dumoulin is employed by Jumbo Visma he is a Sunweb rider. Tony Martin, meanwhile, rides for HTC Highroad, and Dan Martin is resplendent in Garmin argyle.
Certain riders are fixed, in formaldehyde, in your memory. Split lengthways by a metaphorical Damien Hirst and displayed in the Tate Modern of your mind. Can you honestly conjure up an image of Romain Bardet, for example, wearing anything other than brown shorts?
Of course you can’t. And neither can he, his wife and family, or a selection of his closest friends. But you’re gonna have to. He now rides for Sunweb. I shit you not. Gone is the whimsical blue, white and brown in favour of black shorts, white jersey, and a couple of functional stripes down the front.
Not a sniff of brown.
The AG2R confusion doesn’t end there. Old goldie-bike Greg van Avermaet has joined from Team CCC. Clinging gamely to the golden steed he adopted following that 2016 Olympic gold medal. Too proud to admit that the bike is actually, literally solid gold, and has been playing havoc with his power to weight ratio for the past four years.
How else to explain his relative poor form?
And get this: Aussie Michael Matthews will rejoin his countrymen and ride for Mitchelton Scott. Which is a jarring double-take. Equal parts entirely normal and highly irregular. He used to ride for them, spent a few years at Sunweb, but is now back there and it seems slightly confusing and also did he ever even really leave?
All of which only scratches the surface. Chris Froome, Michael Woods and Sep Vanmarcke now ride for Israel Start-up Nation; cash-rich, ambitious, and in need of a decent team name. Richie Porte has become a super-duper-domestique-deluxe at Ineos while Adam Yates fills the role of team leader number thirty-seven at the-team-formerly-known-as-Sky. ‘Superman’ Lopez has moved to Movistar. Rafa Majka and Matteo Trentin have taken the Team UAE dollar.
The list goes on.
“It’s like that time I learnt French and forgot how to drive,” Homer Simpson once wisely said, pointing out, correctly, that our cranial bandwidth is limited. Take heed. If you try and remember this swathe of transfer activity who knows what you’ll lose to make room for it.
(Bardet Image: filip bossuyt from Kortrijk, Belgium, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons\\Matthews Image: filip bossuyt from Kortrijk, Belgium, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)