Welcome to episode no. 538 of previously-obscure rider on a small team does well; big team comes in and scoops them. Thereby shoring up the chances of the biggest races being won by anyone else other than the richest squads in the peloton.
According to the Nostradamus’ (Nostradami?) at Gazzetta dello Sport, Biniam Girmay is currently being courted by Ineos Grenadiers: part-time WorldTour squad, part-time hoover-er of exquisite cycling talent.
Of course, these are only rumours. Girmay currently has a contract with Intermarché until 2024, and reports suggest a new improved deal is in the works that would triple his current €300,000 salary.
Enter the British behemoth. Admittedly, it’s a signing that makes absolute sense for Ineos as they re-build their squad with young talents such as Tom Pidcock and Ethan Hayter who can contest one-day Classics and one day also make a splash at Grand Tours, a mould Girmay fits into.
As well as pivoting to snap up emerging talent in the transfer arms race to find the next Tadej Pogačar or Remco Evenepoel, Ineos have bolstered their squad with incredible, proven talent over the past couple of years. Rohan Dennis, Richard Carapaz, Andrey Amador, Richie Porte, Adam Yates, Dani Martínez, Laurens De Plus. It’s quite the haul.
The same can, of course, be said for UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma, the three richest teams in the WorldTour. UAE has consolidated Tadej Pogačar’s surfacing as the pre-eminent GC rider in the peloton with a supporting cast to match, while Jumbo-Visma has continued to invest around Primož Roglič’s yellow jersey ambitions and Wout van Aert’s Classics core.
The careers of professional cyclists are fleeting. They only have a tight window within which to make money from the thing they are really good at. Go get that big bag of cash, and the material benefits of belonging to one of the big boys.
But last season, more than 50 per cent of the men’s WorldTour races were won by Ineos, Jumbo-Visma, or UAE. Quick-Step also took six, which left just eight WorldTour victories between the other 15 teams, 10 of whom didn’t score one at all. This year, after 12 WorldTour races, UAE and Jumbo-Visma have also won half so far. There’s less room than ever for the little guys.