Transfer mechanics: Ranking the men's WorldTour teams based on new signings

GCN takes a look at every men's WorldTour squad, the ins-and-outs, and ranks every squad from 1 to 18

Clock15:20, Tuesday 2nd January 2024
GCN ranks all the men's WorldTour teams based on their transfer activity in 2023

© Sprint Cycling Agency

GCN ranks all the men's WorldTour teams based on their transfer activity in 2023

The 2023 season saw a raft of new signings and transfers in the men’s WorldTour with every team in the hunt for new recruits as they looked to improve their squads.

Lidl-Trek made a raft of new signings, while UAE Team Emirates and Visma-Lease a Bike made subtle, yet important touches, to their already impressive squads. Ineos Grenadiers and Soudal Quick-Step both had transitional seasons on the transfer market, while some squads, like dsm-firmenich PostNL and Jayco AlUla punched above their weight with some canny moves.

Read more: Pro cycling transfers – Every move for the 2024 season

For some squads it was a transfer market to forget, with major riders leaving and few new faces to fill the gaps. Although not every squad is created equal, and each team has its own budget restrictions, we’ve analyised and ranked the teams from 18-1, and picked out the key signings or re-signings, for each team.

18. Cofidis

Cofidis don’t make major signings, not since the 1990s anyway, and this winter was no exception. Ben Hermans, Kenny Elissonde, and Gorka Izagirre – all over the age of 32 – joined from teams that no longer required their services, a batch of neo-pros were ushered in, and Stefano Oldani was probably the biggest name through the door.

The outgoings included Victor Lafay, a handful of retirees, and several domestiques moving to pastures new. All said and done, it was an uninspiring transfer window for Cedric Vasseur’s team. Alexis Gougeard coming back to the WorldTour makes a nice story given what happened to him with the demise of B&B Hotels but overall there’s not much to get excited about if you’re a Cofidis fan.

Bryan Coquard and Jesus Herrada were both awarded new deals but in 12 months’ time, half the team will be 30 years old and above. Vasseur will need to be more ruthless with some of his veterans and build for the future.

17. Bahrain Victorious

Bahrain Victorious' major signings and contract extensions for 2024

With limited funds at their disposal, Bahrain Victorious were unable to compete for major names in 2023. Instead, they picked up two promising riders from the U23 ranks in Alberto Bruttomesso and Finlay Pickering, while Torstein Træen moved across from Uno-X.

This ageing team were desperately in need of young blood, so in that sense, Milan Erzen has achieved one of his main objectives but in no way has he replaced the results or the experience to cover the losses of Heinrich Haussler, Mikel Landa and Jonathan Milan.

The team will still be competitive in 2024, and they’ll get every last drop out of their veterans, but this was still an underwhelming transfer window for the team.

16. Groupama-FDJ

Marc Madiot’s squad lost two linchpins in Thibaut Pinot (retirement) and Arnaud Démare (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) and had a relatively modest influx of new riders. They picked a handful of proven domestiques from rival French squads and moved the U23 time trial champion Eddy Le Huitouze up from the development team.

The Michael Storer experiment never truly worked and he has moved to Tudor, while it was a slight surprise to see Jake Stewart depart for Israel-Premier Tech.

After seven riders moved from the U23 programme to the WorldTour at the start of 2023, Madiot needed to add valued experience and depth to his team, and while there were no major signings, Valentin Madouas and Quentin Pacher were given contract extensions. Madiot has rolled the dice on Matthew Walls with a two-year deal but overall this has been an exercise in patience for the French team boss as he builds for the long-term future.

He did miss out on Victor Lafay but that shouldn’t hold the team back in the next 12 months.

15. Astana Qazaqstan Team

Retaining Mark Cavendish on a one-year deal is a welcome surprise for Alexandre Vinokourov’s team after the sprinter announced his retirement last May. That decision was flipped in the autumn and Cavendish will enjoy a reinforced leadout, with Michael Mørkøv and Rüdiger Selig joining the team.

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Max Kanter has also been recruited from Movistar and provides another sprint outlet but this team will continue to struggle for stage racing and Classics wins because of a lack of talent and depth in almost every area.

A gaggle of riders retired or moved on, but Davide Ballerini could prove to be an under-the-radar success if he can rediscover the form of a few years ago.

14. Ineos Grenadiers

Ineos Grenadiers' major signings and contract extensions for 2024

Whether or not the team are going through a transitional phase, the key question to ask yourself is, has this team become better or worse in the off-season?

In the arrivals lounge sit the much-vaunted but as yet unproven Andrew AJ August, along with Tobias Foss, Oscar Rodriguez and Theodor Storm – a rider they were initially planning on taking in 2025. Over in departures sit Tao Geoghegan Hart, Pavel Sivakov, Dani Martínez, Luke Plapp and Ben Tulett. Right now, anyone who argues that the team have upgraded their talent pool is misguided, and while August et al could prove to be roaring successes, the fact is that the regression of the team looks set to continue when solely based on the acquisitions they’ve made.

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Remember, they tested the waters on Roglič, Evenepoel, Ayuso, and even Pogačar, with none of the talks ending in a signature or even a proper negotiation. They only managed to retain Carlos Rodríguez by paying compensation after the rider had agreed to join Movistar, while most of the transfer business revolved around contract extensions. Heading into 2024 they are further away from winning a Grand Tour unless either Rodríguez or Tom Pidcock make massive strides, or Geraint Thomas rolls back the years and has a spot of luck at the Giro.

Perhaps the loss of Geohegan Hart, Sivakov and Martínez aren’t even the most glaring exits; the fact that young riders such as Tulett and Plapp simply didn’t want to be there is telling. The transition continues.

13. Intermarché-Wanty

With Circus departing, the Belgian squad had to tighten their belts and that showed in relation to their transfer activity. Rui Costa was allowed to leave, alongside Sven Erik Bystrøm, Niccolò Bonifazio and a gaggle of support riders. Kevin Colleoni was the only rider to arrive from another WorldTour team, with five more faces coming through the door.

Although they’re not yet household names, Francesco Busatto (21) and Alexy Faure Prost (19) look like real finds. Busatto won the U23 version of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2023, and Prost won a handful of races and finished fifth in the Baby Giro and second in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. Meanwhile, several riders, including Louis Meintjes, were handed contract extensions.

12. Soudal Quick-Step

Soudal Quick-Step's major signings for 2024

The good news is that the riders and staff avoided a messy merger that would have endangered dozens of jobs at the worst possible time of the year. But unfortunately, the team look even weaker as a Classics squad – on paper at least. Florian Sénéchal, Michael Mørkøv, Fabio Jakobsen, Tim Declercq, Rémi Cavagna, Davide Ballerini, and Andrea Bagioli have all moved on and made other teams stronger, while Patrick Lefevere has pulled out all the stops to try and balance the squad and still keep Remco Evenepoel happy.

It’s somewhat surprising that Mauro Schmid was allowed to leave but Mikel Landa is a great pick-up for the Grand Tour leadership role and then super domestique duties at the Tour, and Luke Lamperti could be a major revelation if he’s given the right lead-out support. Lefevere did manage to keep several climbers on new deals, and Gianni Moscon adds some power for the Classics, but this team still haven’t closed the gap to their Grand Tour rivals, and have weakened themselves in the Classics.

Read more:

Lefevere has possibly one of the toughest jobs in management right now and he has looked to balance the squad as much as possible, but the main question is whether the team is stretched too thin at various points. Still, expect them to win bundles of races and for Evenepoel to be victorious in almost every race he enters.

11. Arkéa-B&B Hotels

The team’s transfer activity started early with the arrival of Arnaud Démare from Groupama-FDJ. The 32-year-old picked up a couple of wins before the curtain came down on his season, and he’ll aim to bring that momentum with him into the new campaign.

Elsewhere, Vincenzo Albanese’s arrival looks like a smart move for the French team, and Florian Sénéchal provides depth and reliability across the board after his move from Soudal Quick-Step. Losing Hugo Hofstetter is a blow, although he didn’t win a race in 2023, Warren Barguil probably needed a change of scene, and the slow demise of the newly retired Nacer Bouhanni shouldn’t harm the team too much.

Overall, this wasn’t a shabby winter for the team. They upgraded on their sprinter, replaced Barguil with a younger climber and picked up Sénéchal before the year was out.

10. Alpecin-Deceuninck

Alpecin-Deceuninck's major signings for 2024

Stefano Oldani and Dries De Bondt were the headline departures but the team covered their bases by extending contracts to almost a third of the team, with Michael Gogl, Oscar Riesebeek and Silvan Dillier all receiving new terms of employment. From the seven new recruits, Lars Boven, Henri Uhlig, Luca Vergallito, Timo Kielich look like upgrades, while another star from the development team, U23 world champion Axel Laurance, is another obvious standout signing.

When you have the best one-day racer and best sprinter in the world, and stage racing isn’t your speciality, your activity in the market doesn’t need to be massive. The five riders from the development squad should settle in quickly, and Oldani and De Bondt shouldn’t be missed too much.

9. Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team

Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale's major signings for 2024

Having given up on being a Spring Classics team, AG2R are now a sprint squad, having signed Sam Bennett. It’s a shame they couldn’t have invested in a proper lead-out for the Irishman but the team should still be able to cobble together enough of a train to give their biggest winter signing a chance in the Grand Tours.

Elsewhere, there’s the arrival of Victor Lafay, who had a few really impressive days outside of his Tour de France success. At 27, he’s a mercurial talent who could prove to be a massive hit but given that teams like Ineos backed out of the bidding war for his signature, the pressure will be on from day one.

Felix Gall was given a bumper contract in the summer but this is still a team with a lot of domestiques and not many winners. Bennett could change that, and Lafay could add some quality to the quantity.

8. EF-Education EasyPost

EF Education-EasyPost's major signings for 2024

Despite a significant amount of turnover on the team – 10 riders in and 10 riders out – there wasn’t a huge amount of cash floating around for new signings. The team made their marquee acquisition a year ago through Richard Carapaz and this window was about building beyond 2024.

Out of the 10 riders who joined the team, only three had WorldTour experience, with Rui Costa signing from Intermarché, Michael Valgren moving back from the development team after a year of rehabilitation, and Harry Sweeny joining from Lotto Dstny. The seven other new faces came from the U23 and junior ranks, with Archie Ryan, Markel Beloki, and Darren Rafferty the obvious standouts.

Looking at the riders who left, only Magnus Cort leaves a hole in terms of potential results, while the rest of the free spots were taken by younger options. Nearly half the team are 25 or under, and while there are still vaults of experience throughout the team, a rider like Rui Costa could be pivotal over the next 12 months.

7. Movistar

The Spanish team’s transfer window was strong on the whole but it could have been so much better had it not been for two factors. Seeing Carlos Rodríguez express his desire to join the team and then retract his position was a major blow for a squad desperately in search of an upgrade on Enric Mas, while Matteo Jorgenson’s departure for Visma-Lease a Bike was another punch in the gut.

That said, the riders Eusebio Unzué has enlisted improve the squad in almost every department. Rémi Cavagna is a versatile rider of high quality, and Davide Formolo adds vital support in the Grand Tours and added power in one-day races. Jon Barrenetxea is a promising climber, Javier Romo looks like a canny pick-up, and Pelayo Sánchez came close to winning a couple of Vuelta stages. Lorenzo Milesi was an excellent late signing from under the noses of Ineos Grenadiers, and whatever your feelings are on Nairo Quintana’s return, you can’t deny that signing him to a one-year deal was a pragmatic bit of business.

Movistar can look back on their transfer signings with a sense of contentment. Even when it didn’t come off, it was clear that they operated in the market with genuine intent.

6. Team dsm-firmenich PostNL

Team dsm-firmenich PostNL's major signings for 2024

Despite a relative down year in 2023, Fabio Jakobsen remains a marquee sprinter and, at 27, he could easily discover the form that made him the best finisher in the world. The Dutch rider’s arrival is a colossal signing for the team, who haven’t picked up a true leader since the arrival of Romain Bardet a few years ago. Not content with just signing Jakobsen, the team have bolstered their leadout train with several new faces including Julius van den Berg, Bram Welten, Timo Roosen, Emīls Liepiņš, and Enzo Leijnse.

Elsewhere, Frank van den Broek looks like a star climber in the making, Gijs Leemreize will be given more opportunities than he had at Jumbo-Visma, and the idea of Warren Barguil linking up with Bardet in the mountains is a nostalgic nod to those looking for a gentle come down after the retirement of FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot.

In terms of departures, Alberto Dainese is a loss but is covered by Jakobsen’s arrival, while Marius Mayrhofer and Lorenzo Milesi both wanted out, with the latter involving a healthy compensation package. Sam Welsford could thrive at Bora, too, but if Jakobsen hits his stride then Jasper Philipsen could have a real battle on his hands at the Tour de France in July. Overall, and including Max Poole’s contract extension, this was a tidy little window for the Dutch squad.

5. Bora-Hansgrohe

Ralph Denk must be pleased with how his team conducted their transfer business in the off-season. The signing of Primož Roglič was a major coup for the German squad and takes them from Grand Tour outsiders to bonafide contenders. Roglič will lead the line in every race he starts, while his week-long calibre and one-day pedigree will ensure that the transfer is a success, even if ultimate Tour de France glory should escape him.

Sam Welsford joining from dsm is another smart piece of business, while the departure of Sam Bennett ensured that funds could be ploughed into other areas of the squad. Dani Martínez is another marquee signing and will offer plenty of cover in the high mountains if the team can get the best out of the Colombian and improve his consistency. Matteo Sobrero adds some depth, and there are a couple of interesting neo-pros to follow over the next two seasons.

Losing Nils Politt to UAE is a blow, especially for the engine he provides in the Grand Tour, but it made sense to avoid a bidding war for the German rider. The departure of Cian Uijtdebroeks was both messy and unsavoury for all parties involved but Bora at least gained compensation for the loss of a rider who clearly would have done anything to leave. Overall, it was a really strong transfer period for the team.

4. Lidl-Trek

The American squad had the busiest and most productive transfer period, with 11 new faces joining an already winning team. Lidl’s investment won’t ensure that the squad is on a par with the likes of UAE or Visma just yet, but upgrades have been made in almost every area.

Jonathan Milan should add to his growing palmarès with a bit more leadout support, while Andrea Bagioli is a really promising signing. Sam Oomen and Carlos Verona add steel, and Patrick Konrad will hope to prove that his winning days are far from over.

The lead signing is obviously Tao Geoghegan Hart, who is coming off a career-threatening injury. There are no certainties that he can return to his best form but if he can then Lidl-Trek have a true Grand Tour leader in their ranks. They haven’t had one of those since Richie Porte in 2020.

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3. UAE Team Emirates

The richest team in WorldTour cycling continued to improve their roster over the winter with strategic upgrades in every area. Davide Formolo, Matteo Trentin, George Bennett and Ryan Gibbons were all admirable riders on their team but their spots have been filled with a mix of youth and proven experience.

Nils Politt and Pavel Sivakov add horsepower to the engine room, while Igor Arrieta, former U23 world champion Filippo Baroncini, António Morgado and stage racing sensation Isaac del Toro bring the fresh air of youth to the squad.

Even though the team continue to build for the long-term future, the fact that they also managed to persuade a batch of riders to extend – Brandon McNulty and Marc Soler among them – despite limited individual opportunities, demonstrates their financial clout and ability to retain talent. Improving the top-ranked team in the world was always going to be a major task but Mauro Gianetti has just about managed it.

2. Visma-Lease a Bike

Primož Roglič was either going to leave the team too soon or too late from a management perspective but to see him leave and receive compensation for his getaway was probably the best solution for all concerned. In the short term, it could come back to bite the team but the Vuelta illustrated the bubbling tensions, and Jonas Vingegaard and the younger members of the team are the future of this squad.

Cian Uijtdebroeks’ transfer illustrated several flaws in the transfer system but all of that will be forgotten if he starts winning races, while a fresh crop of U23 talents, plus the arrivals of Ben Tulett from Ineos and Matteo Jorgenson from Movistar make this another fruitful window for Richard Plugge’s team.

UAE arguably had a marginally better window, just based on the fact that they didn’t lose a proven Grand Tour winner, but Plugge will be more than content with his team for 2024.

1. Jayco AlUla

It’s hard to find a team that had a more complete and successful transfer period within the men’s peloton. Caleb Ewan was picked up on a contract that favoured his new employers and he could bounce back to his previous level, while Luke Plapp tearing up his contract at Ineos to join Brent Copeland and Matt White was a huge statement. The 23-year-old didn’t really kick on in the second half of 2023 but there’s a huge amount of untapped potential and the team could have a ready-made successor for Simon Yates in the next two to three years.

Mauro Schmid is another shrewd signing, while Max Walscheid was wasted at Cofidis and bolsters an already decent lead-out train. Anders Foldager and Davide De Pretto were two U23 stars and made handy additions, and there were no major departures.

Six riders in, seven riders out, and although the Australian squad made limited changes in terms of numbers, they couldn’t have hoped for a better set of transfers.

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