During a period of general uncertainty, Oliver Naesen has signed a 3 year contract extension with AG2R La Mondiale. On closer inspection of the transfer list for the 2021 season, it appears that there are a great many Classics specialists up for grabs…
We’ve put together a shortlist of the most exciting transfer prospects for next year.
Bob Jungels (Quick-Step)
The big Luxembourger has given GC a bash in recent years, with two very decent top-10’s at the Giro and an 11th place at the Tour. That said, he does now seem to be targeting the Classics.
A strong pavé rider, he won the U23 P-R, plus Liége-Bastogne-Liége in 2018, and an outstanding solo-win at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne last year, along with 5th at E3, and a 3rd at Dwars door Vlaanderen.
With Gilbert, Boonen and Terpstra all having left Quick-Step in recent years, it seems the team would do well to keep the 27-year-old rider. That said, he does come with a decent price-tag, so it’s possible Lefevere may want to free up some Euros at the end of 2020.
Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates)
Much has been said about the 22-year-old’s sprinting ability through his time at the Hagens Berman Axeon team, however his rookie pro-season in 2019 was more of a learning curve than anything else. He did pick up a technical stage-win at the TDU after Ewan was relegated.
Touted as a sprinter with the ability to cross to the cobbles too, he shares the UAE Team sprint duties with the likes of Kristoff and Gaviria, meaning he is likely treated as the 3rd string for the bigger races at this point.
Both UAE and Philipsen need to have a think about the future development of the rider and the team. Will UAE want him to stay to come up through the ranks, and will Philipsen want to have to compete with the older hands for the protected role? It's arguably a little early to have a team built for him, plus, the economic situation may make a difference. UAE have a solid sponsorship background, meaning there could be a lot more job security at UAE than elsewhere in the peloton.
Niki Terpstra (Direct Energie)
A class-act in the Classics, Terpstra has won both Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in the past. That said, he has struggled to get a recent Monument win since he left QuickStep for Direct Energie in 2019. Also the victim of bad luck, he crashed out of both Flanders and the TdF last year.
At 36, and with the 2020 season uncertain, it's difficult to call what Niki may do at the end of his contract.
Nils Politt (Israel Startup Nation)
We consider Politt a rising powerhouse in the Classics discipline, having ridden an amazing 2019 season - including a second-place finish at the Paris-Roubaix behind the great Philippe Gilbert. Not only suited to the cobbles, the big German has also shown he can ride the hillier sections of the Flemish Classics - proved by a 5th place finish at Flanders, and 6th at E3 Harelbeke.
At 26, he’s entering a productive phase of his career, and we think would be a great investment for any Classics orientated team.
Our pick could be Bora, who have already amassed a wealth of German talent in Ackermann, Buchmann and Schachmann, and with Sagan only with a year left on his contract.
Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo)
With his 2020 Classics campaign off to a brilliant start with wins at both Omloop and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Stuyven made his mark early this year - which would have put him in a great position for an early contract negotiation following the Spring.
“When i have been contracted over the past few years, the new deal was already signed in May. I will not have that certainty now”.
Hopefully a strong tail-end to the season with the rescheduled ‘Autumn Classics’ will ensure his deal for 2021 and beyond.
Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step)
Another wolfpack member on the transfer list. Given the classics quality at Quick-Step, it's taken him a while to make it to the top of the pecking order, competing with the likes of Philippe Gilbert, Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Zdenek Štybar and Matteo Trentin.
Thanks to a Dwars win in 2017, podiums at Paris-Roubaix and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, plus stage wins at the Vuelta a España and Tour de Suisse, plus a few of the other Wolves moving on, it seems he has made it up there along with Jungels and Stybar
Yves has stated that even though he would favour staying at his local team, he has been keeping his options open with regards to a move.
One of our favourites, the Belgian is a thoroughbred cobbles rider who has been the nearly-man of Belgian cycling over the past decade. His class on the pavé is undoubted, although, for one reason or another, things have never quite come together in a way that would seem to justify his talents.
Vanmarcke's room for manoeuvre might be limited this year. He turns 32 next month and is arguably no longer the focal point for EF's Classics squad after Bettiol won Flanders last year. Bettiol's value will have risen, and resources are hardly rich at EF, where the title sponsor is understood to be continuing, but more backing is being sought.
Michael Valgren (NTT Pro Cycling)
Brilliant wins at Omloop and Amstel in 2018 set Valgren up for a big 2019 Classics Campaign - however it didn’t really materialise. It seems he didn’t really settle into his new team at Dimension Data.
With Bjarne Riis taking over the South African-based team with the new name of NTT Pro Cycling, the 2020 season hasn’t given the opportunity for Valgren’s redemption. It's possible and probable Riis will want to entice his fellow-Dane to stay for 2021, however Michael may feel the need to move on to new pastures.
Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-McLaren)
Rounding out our list, an ever-reliable performer, Dylan Teuns won a stage at the 2019 Tour, plus a 6th overall at the Dauphiné and a 12th at the Vuelta. Possibly more of a puncheur than anything else, he has done well at the hilly Classics, with a podium at Il Lombardia and a 5th at Omloop, showing his broad versatility as a rider. At 28 and entering his prime, we put Teuns down as a solid investment for any team.