Transfer Time # 4: Groupama-FDJ Fails to Re-Supply While Jayco AlUla Beefs Up
Transfer Analysis: Groupama-FDJ fails to re-supply, while Jayco beefs up with distressed assets. Spencer Martin breaks down Groupama-FDJ’s surprisingly quiet transfer strategy and Jayco AlUla’s aggressive push to bring talented Australian riders back to the home team.
Jayco AlUla’s Luke Durbridge and Olivier Le Gac of Groupama-FDJ in Dwars door Vlaanderen 2023
To continue our in-depth transfer analysis of every top team going into the 2024 season, I’ve selected two more WorldTour teams that, at least so far, have had polar opposite experiences in the transfer market: Groupama-FDJ and Jayco-ALUla.
Groupama-FDJ wont have Thibaut Pinot in 2024
- Notable new signings: Sven Erik Bystrøm (Intermarche), Eddy Le Huitouze (Équipe continentale Groupama-FDJ)
- Notable departing riders: Arnaud Démare (Arkea), Thibaut Pinot (retired), Jake Stewart (Israel-Premier Tech), Michael Storer (Tudor)
- Notable unsigned riders: N/A
- Total Riders In: 7
- Total Riders Out: 8
- 2024 Roster Spots Remaining: 2 + 1 neopro
- Pro Cycling Stats Points In/Out: -1,992
After a strong 2023 season that saw them finish an impressive 7th place in the UCI Team Rankings, the transfer season has been an unmitigated disaster for the historic French team. Two of their top-producing riders, Thibaut Pinot (retirement) and Arnaud Démare (Arkea) have headed for the door, while they have failed to bring in any established talent to replace them, leaving them with one of the biggest PCS points deficits in the WorldTour.
- Even while they still have a stable of strong riders like David Gaudu, and Valentin Madouas, along with young talent like Romain Grégoire and Lenny Martinez, the loss of Pinot and Démare will hit the team particularly hard since they failed to bring in any riders that can replace their output.
- The oddest part about their failure to replace these stars is that Pinot has been telegraphing his retirement for a while, and Démare was all but driven off the team due to not being selected for the last two Tours de France.
- Frankly, both riders were likely vastly overpaid for their production, so getting them off the books isn’t all negative, but the fact that Marc Madiot hasn’t used some of those savings to bolster the squad is strange, and will almost certainly hurt the team’s performance in 2024.
- Jake Stewart and Michael Storer wouldn’t be classified as stars, but losing these two talented young riders only worsens the talent drain.
- In terms of additions, Sven Erik Bystrøm is a strong Norwegian veteran, but with no pro wins to his name, he is hardly a rider who can be counted on to replace their outgoing group.
- The most exciting pickup the team has made is 20-year-old Eddy Le Huitouze, who comes to the first team from FDJ’s development squad after a promising 2023, which saw him win the French U23 TT Championships.
- Having said this, Le Huitouze likely won’t be producing at major races right away and, instead, will be a multi-year project.
- Groupama-FDJ may have a strong base of talent that will keep the bottom from dropping out, but this dismal transfer season performance begs multiple questions about what exactly management was thinking, and it is difficult to imagine them avoiding a performance dropoff due to it.
- They may have three remaining roster slots (2 full plus 1 neo-pro), but with the free agent market now stripped of any riders capable of replacing the production of Pinot and Démare, any remaining signings will be nice additions versus major game-changers.
New signing for Groupama-FDJ Sven Erik Bystrøm
- Notable new signings: Caleb Ewan (Lotto), Mauro Schmid (QuickStep), Max Walscheid (Cofidis), Luke Plapp (Ineos), Davide De Pretto (Zalf Euromobil Fior), Anders Foldager (Biesse – Carrera)
- Notable departing riders: Zdeněk Štybar (retired), Matteo Sobrero (Bora)
- Notable unsigned riders: Tsgabu Grmay, Lukas Pöstlberger, Alexandre Balmer
- Total Riders In: 6
- Total Riders Out: 3
- 2024 Roster Spots Remaining: 0
- Pro Cycling Stats Points In/Out: +1,225
After a 2023 season where, despite appearing mediocre, they impressively outperformed their pre-season BTP NET rating by four spots, the Australian team has led an aggressive off-season where they have overhauled their roster and gone back to their roots by bringing in high-profile local riders who have stalled out on other teams, like Caleb Ewan and Luke Plapp, and parted with underperforming veterans like Lukas Pöstlberger, Alexandre Balmer, Zdeněk Štybar and Tsgabu Grmay. This aggressive and somewhat risky strategy has seen them bring in a net of 1,225 PCS points, which has allowed them to have one of the strongest transfer seasons in the WorldTour.
- The headline of the team’s off-season acquisition is Caleb Ewan, whose career had stalled out at Lotto-Dstny after being one of the sport’s top sprinters in 2019.
- In a vacuum, the decision to bring an aging, and reportedly difficult to work with, sprinter on board when they already have Dylan Groenewegen makes little sense, but, due to Lotto’s desperation to get Ewan and his €2 million contract off their books, Jayco allegedly got Ewan at a bargain price.
- I would generally strongly dislike the idea of Jayco going back to the well with Ewan, and it still remains to be seen if this is a good decision, but the combination of the heavily discounted pay rate and the reality that Jayco needs to sprinters to pick up numerous top 10 placings to keep themselves out of yet another relegation battle makes this worth the risk.
- While Ewan was the team’s big-name signing, the addition of ultra-talented youngsters, 22-year-old Luke Plapp and 23-year-old Mauro Schmid, were major coups for Jayco, who got two incredibly talented young riders despite not having the budget to compete with the deeper-pocketed teams.
- Schmid may have had a disappointing 2023 campaign with Soudal-QuickStep after breaking out with a stage win at the 2021 Giro d’Italia, but his addition adds much-needed firepower to the Jayco roster.
- Sure, Schmid had a poor, and slightly strange, final half of 2023 after he decided to part ways with the Soudal-QuickStep team, but with his level of talent and Jayco’s financial realities, they have to be willing to look past that and hope it was simply a function of Schmid’s young age and the turmoil behind-the-scenes at QuickStep.
- Plapp, the 2x Australian national road race champion, went to Ineos to much fanfare in 2022, only to be lost in the shuffle of the team’s chaotic structure that had Plapp thrown into races without direction, sometimes as a leader and sometimes as a domestique, instead of brought along as a potential future leader with a well-thought-out plan.
- Jayco is likely guessing that with a well-defined role and more backroom team support, Plapp can blossom into a future leader while also providing key leadout support as needed for their fleet of sprinters.
- They might not be big names, but the 21-year-old Davide De Pretto and 22-year-old Anders Foldager were decorated U23 riders and continue the trend of Jayco discovering and developing promising young Italian riders.
- The most impressive part of Jayco’s off-season is that outside of the loss of Matteo Sobrero, the team minimized shipping out major contributors while bringing in a fleet of riders with extremely high upsides.
Caleb Ewan riding for his ‘home’ team in 2024
Free Agent Update:
With Tobias Foss officially signing with Ineos, the last remaining extremely high-upside rider is off the market. However, there is still a surprising amount of solid mid-career to veteran riders without contracts for 2024.
Tobias Foss has signed with Ineos
Top Currently Unsigned Riders
While it tends to be the case every off-season, I am a bit surprised just how many good riders aged in their late 20s to mid-30s are unsigned at this point and, in particular, just how many riders EF has declined to re-sign (they have eight unsigned riders and only three remaining roster slots). In fact, it is a bit jarring to see riders like Odd Christian Eiking (who led the Vuelta a España just two seasons ago) and David de la Cruz currently slated to be out of work come January 1st. Of course, with the rush of ultra-young riders into the top levels of the sport, something has to give, and it currently appears that what is giving is any semblance of patience for solid veterans.
No contract for David de la Cruz
This would tell us that the current rules of the WorldTour are that if you are past your mid-20s, you have to be significantly better or be capable of performing an ultra-specific domestique role that can’t be easily replicated (i.e. Rafał Majka), than a rider in their late teens or early 20s to make up for the fact that you are unlikely to continue to improve. The phenomenon is partly due to the fact that younger riders carry with them the promise of exponential improvement but also because they are simply cheaper than veteran riders, who have become used to a certain style of living and years of riding the upward swing of wages for top-tier riders.
No team for Vuelta’21 red jersey wearer Odd Christian Eiking