Roglič’s Move to BORA – hansgrohe Headlines Busy Transfer Season

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

This has been a very active transfer season so far, with one real blockbuster announced, the move of four-time Grand Tour winner (3 Vueltas, 1 Giro) Primož Roglič from Jumbo-Visma to BORA – hansgrohe, a transfer that fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogačar said “brings BORA to the level of Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates and it already adds a lot more teams that you need to put into the equation for Grand Tours.”

To support Roglič in his declared aim of winning next year’s Tour de France, the German team have added to its impressive roster of support riders – which potentially includes Giro winner Jai Hindley and reigning German road race champion Emanuel Buchmann – by bringing in the excellent Colombian climber Daniel Martinez, from Ineos Grenadiers.

Another big transfer, though not a blockbuster, was Mikel Landa’s move from Bahrain Victorious to Soudal-QuickStep, to bolster the chances of Soudal’s leader Remco Evenepoel on the steep Grand Tour climbs he has so far been unable to master. Evenepoel has declared that he wants to win the Tour de France next year, but his decision to ride in the race has been met by an avalanche of doubt about his ability to win it, including from his boss, Soudal-QuickStep general manager Patrick Lefevere.

“We still have doubts about the exact level he can reach in the Tour de France against guys like [Jonas] Vingegaard and Pogačar,” Lefevere said. And next year’s Tour looks to be one of the most difficult in this century, which suits both two-time Tour winners, but not Evenepoel. Perhaps that will dissuade the Belgian 2023 world time trial champion from tackling the Tour. Or perhaps he is already hatching another plan.

One of the interesting aspects of this transfer season has so far been Ineos Grenadiers’ lack of activity on the rider market, having so far hired only two new riders, the lowest by far of all the major teams. This is interesting because the team had only a pretty good season in 2023, with 36 victories, but a mere three Grand Tour stage wins. In addition to Martinez, they also lost Tao Geoghegan Hart, the last Ineos rider to win a Grand Tour (the Giro, in 2020) and winner of this year’s Tour of the Alps. He has moved to Lidl-Trek. Ineos still has the redoubtable Geraint Thomas, who finished second in this year’s Giro (behind Roglič) at age 37, which means that he will be 38 next year and even less likely to win another Grand Tour. So what is Ineos waiting for?

Team Ineos Grenadiers
So far, the Ineos Grenadiers team hasn’t been very active on the rider market. © Profimedia

Why have they been so inactive on the transfer market? Could it be that team manager Dave Brailsford is negotiating, as we speak, with Evenepoel to bring the young Belgian into its fold and hope he will help return the team to its glory days? Lefevere’s discouraging comments about his chances in the Tour may be a sign that their relationship has hit the rocks.

One question regarding team transfers has been what Jumbo-Visma (which will be called Visma–Lease a Bike in 2024) has done to find a replacement for the departing Roglič. The answer, so far, is not much. They have secured the services of the very promising 24-year-old American Matteo Jorgenson, who won this year’s Tour of Oman and finished in the top 10 in the Tour de Romandie, Paris-Nice and E3 Saxo Classic. According to team sports director Merijn Zeeman, their plans for next year do not yet include winning the Giro d’Italia, which Roglič won this year. “We want to send our younger talents to the Giro,” he said.

“Top ten would be very nice, but the overall victory is not realistic with those young boys.” And he admitted that it will be difficult to find a rider to fill Roglič’s shoes: “I hope to be able to replace Primož, but there is no ready-made substitute.” In addition to Jorgenson, these young riders now include the talented 22-year-old Ben Tulett, winner of this year’s Tour of Norway, who moved to Jumbo from Ineos Grenadiers. It is unlike Ineos to let such a promising young rider leave – unless, perhaps, they plan on having an even more talented young rider join them.

One more notable team transfer for next year should be highlighted, that of 38-year-old Michael Mørkøv moving from Soudal-QuickStep to Astana Qazaqstan. This is noteworthy because Mørkøv was for years the primary leadout man for Mark Cavendish, who will be trying to win his 35th Tour de France stage next year and thereby break the record of 34 he currently shares with Eddy Merckx. It seems that Astana has fulfilled its promise to do everything in its power to help the great sprinter etch his name in the record books.