TRANSFER ANALYSIS #2: EF Bulks Up with Carapaz While Movistar Struggles to Replace Valverde

Transfer Analysis: EF spends big to ratchet up their firepower while Movistar appears to struggle to comes to terms with Alejandro Valverde’s retirement. In the second installment of the Transfer Analysis, Spencer Martin has selected two more interesting teams that are undergoing divergent transfer seasons.

# You can read the TRANSFER ANALYSIS #1 HERE. #

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New team for Richard Carapaz

While EF Education-EasyPost’s massive investment to overhaul their roster with superstar Richard Carapaz and the high-upside talent Mikkel Frølich Honoré has them having one of the best NET PCS inflow/outflows over the offseason, the Movistar squad appears to be treading water with a few grab-bag acquisitions despite the departure of long-time superstar Alejandro Valverde.


Mikkel Frølich Honoré – Top talent to EF

EF Education-EasyPost

  • Notable new signings: Richard Carapaz (Ineos), Andrey Amador (Ineos), Mikkel Frølich Honoré (Quick-Step), Stefan de Bod (Astana)
  • Notable departing riders: Michael Valgren (EF Amateur team), Sebastian Langeveld (retired), Ruben Guerreiro (Movistar)
  • Notable unsigned riders: Esteban Chaves, Tom Scully, Simon Carr
    Pro Cycling Stats Points In/Out: +1933


Carapaz is a winner

The American team, which has been known more for its slick marketing instead of actual racing results in recent years, is hoping to recover from a horrid 2022 season that saw them just narrowingly escape relegation by bulking up their roster in the transfer market. To remedy these performance struggles, EF has brought on a big name in Richard Carapaz and a rising talent Mikkel Frølich Honoré from Quick-Step. This willingness to bring in top talent via Carapaz (aka spend big money) sees them currently sitting just behind Team UAE in the net amount of PCS points coming in/out during the transfer season (2218 pts vs 1933 pts).

  • The headline signing of 2019 Giro d’Italia Champion and 2021 Olympic Road Race winner Richard Carapaz marks a massive upgrade in terms of options for GC and hilly one-day races. At 29 years old and without a grand tour overall victory in four seasons, some might be concerned that Carapaz’s best days are behind him, but even his slightly disappointing results over the past few seasons (2nd in the 2020 Vuelta, 3rd in the 2021 Tour, 2nd in the 2022 Giro), would mark the best overall finish for the EF team at a grand tour since the 2017 season.
  • Also, Carapaz’s incredibly sharp in-race tactics mean that he can rack up a staggering amount of UCI points (1856 pts for Carapaz vs 5776 for the entire EF team in 2022), which should help the team stay out of trouble when the next three-year promotion/relegation cycle expires in 2025.
  • The extremely versatile 25-year-old Danish rider, Mikkel Frølich Honoré, had a down 2022 season compared to his breakout campaign in 2021, but the all-around talent (Basque country stage win & 3rd at San Sebastian) could represent an emerging star for EF in the coming years if he realizes the potential he flashed last season.
  • Losing Michael Valgren to injury (at least for 2023), Sebastian Langeveld to retirement and Ruben Guerreiro to an unexpected transfer to Movistar will sting, but the incoming personnel should more than make up for these outflows.
  • My only concern regarding their squad-building strategy is the fairly large list of important riders for the team (Chaves, Scully, and Carr) who are currently unsigned for the 2023 season. But, before we read too much into it, it is important to keep in mind that team boss Jonathan Vaughters loves to play hardball during contract negotiations to work down his riders’ salaries demands, and one by-product of this strategy is that the team tends to hold off until the very last minute to re-sign rank and file riders.


And another year for Urán

Movistar

  • Notable new signings: Fernando Gaviria (UAE), Ruben Guerreiro (EF), Iván Romeo (Axeon)
  • Notable departing riders: Alejandro Valverde (retired)
  • Notable unsigned riders:
  • Pro Cycling Stats Points In/Out: -387


Valverde leaves a big hole at Movistar

In terms of volume, Movistar has had an extremely quiet off-season (three riders in, two out, and nobody unsigned), but the fact that one of their outgoing riders is Alejandro Valverde, one of the best all-around riders in the modern history of the sport and who has spent the vast majority of his 20-year career with the outfit means this is one of the most significant off-seasons for the team in the history of their the time in the sport.


Since leaving Quick-Step Gaviria has not been on the top step of the podium much

  • Bringing in Fernando Gaviria from UAE and ripping Ruben Guerreiro out of his EF contract nets the team two strong riders and shows they are trying to replace Valverde’s contribution by committee, instead of bringing on a rider of equal star power.
  • However, especially with the signing of Gaviria, who has struggled to produce at his former level in the past few seasons (his last grand tour stage win was in the 2019 Giro), it feels like the team is simply throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. In some ways, these somewhat hodgepodge signings also make it seem like the team didn’t actually believe the 42-year-old Valverde would retire at the end of the season and is doing some last-minute cramming before the 2023 season starts in January.
  • Even with a newly ascendant Enric Mas and a handful of strong riders on the roster, along with the addition of a promising 19-year-old Iván Romeo and a consistent rider like Guerreiro who is capable of sniping the odd grand tour stage win, this Movistar team is still feels like it could use an additional rider capable of filling GC and stage win gaps when Enric Mas isn’t available, perhaps in the form of Nairo Quintana, if the somewhat vague UCI team size restrictions would even allow.
  • At the end of the day, the departure of Valverde will fundamentally change the outlook for Movistar in 2023 and beyond, but I’m curious to see if the team completely craters without their leader racking up seemingly endless results (and UCI points), or if his absence will open up opportunities for other riders and allow those who have been stuck working for a leader of such advanced age to finally emerge and shine.


Can Enric Mas take the leadership?

What Is Going on With Mark Cavendish & Nairo Quintana?
Just like last week, the strangest subplot in the ongoing transfer market is the fact that Mark Cavendish, who is only a single Tour de France stage win away from breaking Eddy Merckx’s all-time Tour stage win record, and the 32-year-old Nairo Quintana, who is just a few months removed from a top-10 overall finish at the Tour de France, are still unsigned as we approach the start of the 2023 season and WorldTour teams fill up their final roster spots.


Maybe not B&B for Cavendish

With Mark Cavendish’s planned (and somewhat ideal) landing spot of Team B&B Hotels appearing to go up in smoke before our eyes, I have to imagine Cavendish is currently working out a deal with a team like Ineos, Arkéa-Samsic, or, if he needs, Israel Premier Tech (this would be unideal since they would have to rely on a wildcard invite for the Tour). Even at 37 years old, Cavendish has posted strong results in recent seasons and is likely simply waiting to see if the B&B project is truly dead before jumping ship for another team.


Cavendish should be in the 2023 Tour de France – But with which team?

While I’m confident Cavendish will eventually sign with a team and be present at the 2023 Tour de France, I’m not so bullish about Nairo Quintana’s odds of finding a suitable landing spot in the next few weeks. For starters, the fact that Quintana is currently unemployed and that his Arkéa team cut ties with him, despite the presence of a recently-signed long-term contract, after he tested positive for a banned substance (the painkiller Tramadol) at the Tour de France and lost his 6th place overall result there due to his subsequent disqualification, is an extremely bad sign for Quintana’s future prospects.


Can Quintana still compete with the young guys?

Obviously, using and testing positive for a banned painkiller is bad (and shows almost inconceivably poor judgment), but it is by no means fatal since the positive result doesn’t carry a suspension (since Tramadol is only banned in cycling, not the World Anti-Doping Agency ). Either Arkéa admirably decided that Quintana’s decision to knowingly break the rules merited immediate dismal, or they were having second thoughts about their decision to make an aging GC star who seemed unwilling to target shoulder grand tours despite obvious evidence that his days as a Tour contender are in the past. Whatever the reason, the uncoupling from Quintana, their second-highest UCI point scorer in 2023 even after his Tour de France DQ, leaves the squad extremely threadbare as they head into another brutal promotion/relegation cycle (which is why a one-year deal with Mark Cavendish could come in handy).


It’s all a bit of a pain for Quintana

Perhaps B&B Hotels can pull out of their financial tailspin, Movistar decides Quintana’s reduced status could mean things go better the second time around, Patrick Lefevere makes a bold decision to bring on over to Quick-Step with a low-wage, bonus-heavy deal, or Israel-Premier Tech decides their only way into the Tour in 2023 by stacking their roster with stars of yesteryear, but with the baggage from his Tour de France DQ and the rosters of WorldTour teams quickly filling up, there isn’t an obvious landing spot for Quintana as 2023 quickly approaches.


What next for the Colombian?

# Spencer Martin is the author of the cycling-analysis newsletter Beyond the Peloton that breaks down the nuances of each race and answers big picture questions surrounding team and rider performance. Sign up now to get full access to all the available content and race breakdowns. #

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