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Out of contract 8: The best riders without a team for 2020

If this team raced a Grand Tour, they would be leaving with plenty of stage wins and maybe the overall title

Joe Robinson
10 Oct 2019

The 2019 season is all but finished, this Saturday's Il Lombardia being the last race of any significance, and there are still a whole host of world-class cyclists without a contract for next season.

As things stand, Rohan Dennis, Sam Bennett, Esteban Chaves and Mark Cavendish are among the raft of talent yet to confirm their futures for 2020.

Normally by now, all of your top-shelf talent would have announced their teams for the coming season but this year, things seem a little different.

This could be down to the bizarre situation in which many of the best riders in the world have also found themselves on the move this winter already. Tom Dumoulin, Nairo Quintana, Philippe Gilbert, Richard Carapaz to name but a few.

It may not be, however. It may just be that there is too much top talent to fit into all the teams.

Either way, Cyclist thought it would take those out of contract riders and create its own Grand Tour team and, boy, it's a good team.

GC leader - Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott)

There is still no word on whether Estaban Chaves will renew his contract with Mitchelton-Scott, with it running out at the end of the year. It’s expected he will stay on with the Australian team extending on the seven years the Colombian has already been with them.

In this team, Chaves would be ‘El Capitano’, General Classification leader. The 29-year-old has previously finished second at the Giro d’Italia (2016), third at the Vuelta a Espana (2017) and even won Il Lombardia (2016).

He has struggled in the past few seasons, combatting injury, illness and personal tragedy, but Chaves is a classy rider who can fight for Grand Tours once again.

Plus, even if he can't, his unofficial position as the ‘most liked cyclist in the world’ would earn your team more than a few fans.

Super Domestique - Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida)

Continuing the theme of pocket-rocket climbers, Cyclist’s second choice is Italian Domenico Pozzovivo.

After a horror crash this August that left him with a broken leg, arm and a punctured lung, the 36-year-old’s career has been left in doubt. His contract is up with Bahrain-Merida but he is determined to return to professional cycling.

If he does, he would be a perfect mountain man having finished fifth at the Giro d’Italia (2014, 2018) and taken mountain stages at the Tour de Suisse and Volta a Cataluyna during his career.

When the long climbs hit double digits, Pozzovivo comes into his own. A perfect weapon for any team.

Sprinter supreme - Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe)

The best sprinter in the world, arguably, in 2019, Irishman Sam Bennett is in a bit of a predicament.

Having not been selected for either the Giro d’Italia or Tour de France, with Pascal Ackermann and Peter Sagan being preferred, Bennett decided it was high time for a change of scenery.

However, current employers Bora-Hansgrohe are claiming that the rider had reached an agreement with the team to continue into 2020, which the team is adamant will happen. The case is currently sitting with UCI governing body arbitration panel who will reach a final decision.

This means that Bennett is currently in limbo, unable to finalise a deal for next year and therefore potentially out of contract. A world-class sprinter, Bennett would almost guarantee you stage wins at any race and lead the team on the flat days.

Classics man - Taylor Phinney (Education First)

Far out man, everyone’s favourite cycling hipster Taylor Phinney is yet to lock into a contract extension with Education First.

Having raced the ‘Alternative Calendar’ for the season, Phinney had an underwhelming Classics campaign and also missed out on selection for the Tour de France. He will race in Japan for the end of the year, but after that, it’s unclear.

Phinney may not care though, man. Maybe it's life’s way of telling him that he should focus on his art more. Or that he should join a Grateful Dead cover band.

Either way, Phinney is a classy rider that could lead this team through spring and then manage its social media for the rest of the year.

The engine room - Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin)

The recent takeover of Katusha-Alpecin by Israel Cycling Academy has created a situation in which 32 riders are competing for around 27 team spots. While Israel will retain all its talent, the Katusha guys will likely have to jostle out for the final sports with a handful expected to be released.

One of those expected to miss out is Britain’s own Alex Dowsett. Recently finishing fifth in the individual time trial World Championships proved he still has what it takes to be WorldTour but whether a team punts on a rider over 30 is yet to be seen.

For our team, however, Dowsett would provide the watts wanted to ride on the front all day for the likes of Chaves and Bennett and also provide some threat in the occasional time trial, too.

The World Champ - Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida)

The world’s best time triallist is without a team for 2020. Not because he isn’t good enough, but because a fairly public fallout with former team Bahrain-Merida over kit and bike sponsorship saw his contract terminated.

A back-to-back World Champion, the Australian will not be short of offers for next season, with Movistar and Team Ineos already rumoured to have approaches.

While Dennis’s talent is unquestioned, his temperament may cause a slight barrier for potential teams who could consider his fiery nature too much to handle, especially Ineos who famously run a pretty subordinate ship.

Thankfully, Cyclist’s team is fictitious and we would bite your hand off for a rider as classy as Dennis.

Experience is key - Rory Sutherland (UAE Team Emirates)

Entering his 18th season as a professional cyclist, Australian Rory Sutherland is among the most experienced riders in the peloton. However, for 2020, UAE Team Emirates consider him surplus to requirements leaving him without a team.

Having also ridden for Movistar and Tinkoff-Saxo in the past, the 37-year-old has been a loyal lieutenant in Grand Tour victories and piloted more than one high profile rider to stage and race wins.

Sutherland would be the perfect road captain. Widely respected, pragmatic and willing to tell it how it is.

The wildcard - Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)

I mean, why not? 48 Grand Tour stages, a World Championship, Milan-San Remo. The most decorated sprinter of his generation and one of the most famous cyclists in the world.

Sure, Cavendish may be beyond his best days but class does not disappear this quickly and you cannot help but think he has one last big win in him.

Also, now 34, the Manxman brings a wealth of experience and, despite his sometimes abrupt persona, he is widely considered as one of the most helpful riders in the peloton for up and coming riders seeking experience.

That’s invaluable, just like the sponsors Cavendish would also bring to the team.

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