Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Most interesting signings for 2012

I’m sorry I’ve been M.I.A. for a while now, but I had some personal things to sort out. Anyway now I’m back and I think it’s time to take a look at the transfer-window and see which teams made the best deals for 2012.

It’s easy to point out BMC’s aggressive strategy (BuyMoreCaptains) with riders like Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd, Marco Pinotti and Tejay Van Garderen signing on for 2012, but instead of that I rather want to look at some of the scoops for next year.

Manuel Belletti
First of all, we have Ag2r. Despite having promising French sprinters like Lloyd Mondory and Anthony Ravard, team boss Vincent Lavenu still felt the need to grab three new fast guys. French veteran Jimmy Casper, Italian up-and-coming Manuel Belletti and Russian 12-wins-so-far-this-season Boris Shiplevski. The name to remember here is of course Manuel Belletti. He has been stuck in the Italian calendar for some years now and I’m really looking forward to see what he can do in the big races, especially in the Grand Tours where he doesn’t have to share the sprinter-role with Sacha Modolo anymore. Look out for Belletti, he will be taking home many podium places in 2012! Great transfer!

Angel Vicioso
What seemed like a Russian revolution in the Tour this year, has now been changed quite a bit at Team Katusha. A lot of new, international personalities are now to find at the team, who once again managed to sign some very interesting riders! It would be too easy to say Oscar Freire, so instead let’s focus on another Spaniard, Angel Vicioso. Together with Freire, he will be a key player in the one-day-races, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he snatched a win in of the spring classics. Great transfer!

Next up is Lampre. On one hand it seems like they want to back Alessandro Petacchi even more than this season with lead-out signings like Viganò, Paolini and Ongarato, but on the other hand they have also signed two of my favorite younguns in, future GC star, Mattia Cattaneo and Davide Cimolai who is planned to take over from Petacchi when he can’t win anymore, probably already this year. Two young Italians with huge potential  good transfers!

Giovanni Visconti
Without BMC, I would say Movistar has been making the best deals for next year. Youngsters like Castroviejo, Herrada, Quintana together with already established Karpets and Visconti, well that's just impressive. Especially Giovanni Visconti who I think finally will get his big break through on the international scene, meaning winning big races – not “just” those on the Italian calendar (no offense). And by the way, don’t forget Movistar also gets Alejandro Valverde back in 2012. Outstanding transfers!

Astana has also been quite aggressive, signing Brajkovic, Seeldrayers, Bozic etc for 2012. It’s no secret that I've already pointed out Janez Brajkovic as one of my top candidates for the Giro d’Italia next year, but let’s look at another new name at the Kazakh team instead. Francesco Gavazzi. Gavazzi has been riding in the shadows at Lampre his whole career and even though he has been able to shine a few times, like when he won a stage in the Vuelta España this year, I expect him to show his full potential in 2012. Gavazzi is a rider who should be named among the candidates for races like Milano-San Remo and Amstel Gold Race and without any other hilly sprinters at Astana, I think Gavazzi will turn out to be a really important signing for Team Vinokourov. Great transfer!

Mark Renshaw
With Oscar Freire and Graeme Brown leaving Rabobank, Matti Brechel focusing on the classics and Theo Bos far from consistent I think new-signing Mark Renshaw could be quite a scoop. Renshaw has been the world’s best lead out man for a while now but has also always delivered when given the chance. Mark Cavendish was upset to see his best man leave, and it will be very interesting to see the two going on head-2-head (get it…) in the mass sprints next year. Great transfer!

Last team for now is Team Sky. Everybody expected Mark Cavendish to sign on and of course he did just that. Cavendish is a guarantee for victories and that is exactly what Team Sky needs. Therefore Cavendish is the most important transfer of the season, no doubt. Still I would like to focus on little less known Salvatore Puccio. The young Italian won the U-23 version of Ronde van Vlaanderen this year and is a rider much like his hero Oscar Freire. Puccio is still very young and has a lot to learn, but I think we will already see some of his enormous talent next year. Great transfer!

Well that’s it for now. These are the signings I see as the most interesting for 2012. Please feel free to comment if you agree or disagree.

For my view on Team Saxo Bank’s transfer situation please read my piece “Explanation - Why Saxo Bank hasn’t signed a new star to help Contador” by clicking here.

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