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Blazin' Saddles: Nibali, Landa, Viviani and Mas lead transfer merry-go-round

Blazin' Saddles: Nibali, Landa, Viviani and Mas lead transfer merry-go-round

09/08/2019 at 19:37Updated 12/08/2019 at 09:58

As transfer deadline day loomed over British football clubs this week, some of the peloton's stalwarts were dotting the i's and crossing the t's on moves of their own. Felix Lowe runs through some of the week's most intriguing moves – from Vincenzo Nibali to Trek-Segafredo to Mikel Landa to Bahrain Merida.

With Manchester United scrambling to offload Romalu Lukaku to Inter Milan and Arsenal helping to balance the books by sending Alex Iwobi to Everton ahead of Thursday's deadline, some WorldTour moves were being finalised after the cycling transfer window was opened on 1 August.

While none have been about as earth-shattering as Nicolas Pepe joining the Gunners for £72m or, say, David Luiz swapping the blue corner of London for red, there have still been some eyebrow-raisers from football's cycling counterparts.

Let's look at the top moves and give them a rating out of 10.

Vincenzo Nibali - stage 19 Tour de France 2019 - Getty Images

Vincenzo Nibali - stage 19 Tour de France 2019 - Getty ImagesGetty Images

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida to Trek-Segafredo)

"I followed my heart and chose this team, knowing that their project is very serious and competitive," said the Shark of the Strait on swapping shades of red and ditching human rights issues for quality coffee.

Forget that by "my heart" Vincenzo clearly meant his wallet – no one can really begrudge a final big move for a 34-year-old who has won all of cycling's Grand Tours and two of five Monuments.

It remains to be seen if Nibali can win a Grand Tour again, but he finished runner-up in the Giro in May and won a stage in the Tour in July, so he's clearly still got something to offer Trek-Segafredo over the next two years besides smouldering looks and a solid line in Italian gesticulations.

What this means for Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema is anyone's guess, but the seasons are long and races plentiful – and Nibali offers something neither of the above do: proven Grand Tour pedigree plus an ability to win one-day races.

Joining the Sicilian veteran is his younger brother Antonio who, at just 26, has the potential to develop further. At Trek, Nibali should slot in nicely alongside compatriots Giulio Ciccone, Gianluca Brambilla and Fabio Felline. If anything, that's one hell of a Giro team for the tifosi.

Rating: 7/10

He may be reaching the autumn of his career, but you know what you're going to get with Nibali. His best days may be gone, but his win rate should still be greater than that of Porte.

Spain's Mikel Landa launches an attack during the fifteen stage of the 106th edition of the Tour de France cycling race between Limoux and Foix Prat d'Albis, on July 21, 2019. (Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AF

Spain's Mikel Landa launches an attack during the fifteen stage of the 106th edition of the Tour de France cycling race between Limoux and Foix Prat d'Albis, on July 21, 2019. (Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFGetty Images

Mikel Landa (Movistar to Bahrain Merida)

Filling the Nibali void at Bahrain Merida while splitting up Movistar's turbulent love-hate triangle is Spanish nearly-man Landa who, despite stints at Sky and Movistar, has still not managed to better the third place finish he achieved in the 2015 Giro for Astana.

A litany of leadership clashes with Fabio Aru, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and Richard Carapaz have overshadowed a supreme talent whose apparent misuse had spawned the ongoing #FreeLanda meme.

Will Bahrain Merida finally provide the Basque rider the platform on which he can achieve his obvious potential? Put simply: if he doesn't succeed here, then he will do nowhere – and certainly not in the Canadian Rockies...

There should be no hierarchical issues for the 29-year-old at his new home, with Rohan Dennis's bizarre Tour exit a blotch against the Australian's copybook and the likes of Matej Mohoric and Dylan Teuns not yet ready to push for Grand Tour top 10s.

But it's the podium where Landa should be aiming – not the kind of finishes which, were this football, wouldn't even earn him qualification in the Champions League. In short: Landa needs to be less Arsenal and more Manchester City or Liverpool, otherwise it'll be more a case of #LandaOut in the Europa League than a return to the top table.

Rating: 8/10

On paper, this kind of move is just what Landa needs. If Bahrain Merida can add a few more bodies to work alongside him in the mountains – and provided they don't finish above Landa over three weeks – this could see bring out the best in the Basque rider.

Alejandro Valverde and Enric Mas

Alejandro Valverde and Enric MasEurosport

Enric Mas (Deceuninck-QuickStep to Movistar)

With Nairo Quintana likely to join Landa and Ineos-bound Richard Carapaz on the way out (to Arkea-Samsic if you believe the rumour mill), Movistar have identified QuickStep's Mas as their new GC man.

The Spanish team will be hoping they get the Mas who finished runner-up to Simon Yates in the 2018 Vuelta as opposed to the Mas who imploded fantastically in July's Tour, where domestique duties for Julian Alaphilippe got the better of him in the high mountains.

Still only 24, Mas and Movistar are a match made in heaven. Having cut his teeth at QuickStep, Mas is young, Spanish and a capable climber – just what Movistar seek in their leaders. He'll also be able to quiz teammate Valverde (who, at 39, is technically old enough to be his father) about premature balding.

Rating: 9/10

Mas at Movistar was more of case of when and not if. And with Quintana, Landa and Carapaz on the way out, the once-crowded kitchen will be in need of an able sous-chef to work alongside head chef Valverde.

: Arrival / Elia Viviani of Italy and Team Deceuninck - Quick-Step / Celebration / during the 8th Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic 2019 a 169km race from London-Bushy Park to London-The Mall / #RideLondon / #PRLClassic / @RideLondon / on August 04, 20

: Arrival / Elia Viviani of Italy and Team Deceuninck - Quick-Step / Celebration / during the 8th Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic 2019 a 169km race from London-Bushy Park to London-The Mall / #RideLondon / #PRLClassic / @RideLondon / on August 04, 20Getty Images

Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep to Cofidis)

In one of the more leftfield moves, Italian sprinter Viviani has swapped the Wolfpack for the cuddly kittens of Cofidis, who are clearly ramping up their push to enter the WorldTour.

Joining Viviani from QuickStep is his compatriot, friend and chief pilot Fabio Sabatini in a move which will spell the end for the much-maligned Nacer Bouhanni (who'll no doubt end up at Vital Concept or such like).

Apparently it took managed Cedric Vasseur just one hour to convince Viviani of the benefits of getting on board for the "ambitious project" at Cofidis – an hour which clearly involved tampering with the man's eyesight. For before long, Viviani was gushing about "the Cofidis jersey [being] among the most historic in the peloton and [being] a source of pride to wear."

By "most historic" we can only assume something was lost in translation. But we'll give Elia a pat on the back for thinking out of the box in his choice of new home, where there's no chance he'll suffer from the kind of small fish syndrome which held him back at Sky. At Cofidis he has the chance to – carpe diem – be the main focal point of a team which is now ready to take the step up to WorldTour level.

And with QuickStep very much focused on the likes of Julian Alaphilippe, Remco Evenepoel, Bob Jungels and the classics, Viviani will have a chance to shine himself in some of the one-day races such as Milan-Sanremo, instead of playing second-fiddle until the Grand Tours.

Rating: 8/10

On the surface it seems an odd move, but Viviani will have a dedicated train around him and should end Cofidis's 11-year wait for a Tour de France stage win, while doubling their win count across the board elsewhere.

Guillaume Martin of France and Team Wanty Groupe Gobert / during the 105th Tour de France 2018, Stage 11, a 108,5km stage from Albertville to La Rosiere

Guillaume Martin of France and Team Wanty Groupe Gobert / during the 105th Tour de France 2018, Stage 11, a 108,5km stage from Albertville to La RosiereGetty Images

Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Gobert to Cofidis)

The second part of Codifis's ambitious rebuilt is perhaps less as impressive as the first, what with Frenchman Martin yet to crack a Grand Tour top 10.

But that said, he's only 26 and had never ridden the Giro or Vuelta, so a move to Cofidis may not only broaden his horizons, it could see an obvious talent kick on in a team for whom the main ambitions will amount more to getting some sponsorship time in the day's break (sorry, Wanty-Gobert).

Still, Martin was more than 20 minutes adrift for his 12th place in the Tour and so he's probably not the answer if Cofidis are looking for a bona fide GC man. But once again, like all these transfers it seems, this is one which seems to suit all parties.

Rating: 6/10

Of all the peloton's Martins, Guillaume remains very much the third wheel behind Dan and Tony. But this move could do him good, while Cofidis will get their hands on a rider with much potential.

Matteo Trentin

Matteo TrentinEurosport

Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott to CCC)

Last but not least in this round-up, the Italian former European champion swaps the black and bogey green of Mitchelton-Scott for the garish orange of CCC following his stage-winning turn in the Tour.

Trentin quit QuickStep back in 2017 to take more of a leadership role in the classics, but a big crash on the cobbles and some nasty injuries largely put paid to his one-day opportunities in year one at Mitchelton-Scott.

That said, the versatile 30-year-old was there or thereabouts in most races this spring, plus took stage 17 into Gap in the Tour, so clearly still has a lot to offer. With Mitchelton-Scott going down the GC road in Grand Tours, Trentin will have more options at CCC and could dovetail nicely with Greg van Avermaet in the classics.

Rating: 7/10

A solid move for both parties. On paper, and given Trentin's experience and palmares, it looks like CCC are getting more out of this than the other way around; but with his options perhaps limited at Mitchelton-Scott, Trentin may have found the right fit as he bids to show his class in the classics.

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