Dirk Bellemakers has joined Lotto Belisol, filling the spot left vacant by the departure of Gianni Meersman. Bellemakers, who comes from Landbouwkrediet-Euphony, will look to strengthen the team's Classics squad.
Sport manager Marc Sergeant said that Meersman's departure left the team short-handed. “Sometimes we ride a triple program and last season we saw that - keeping in mind possible injuries - a team of 28 riders isn't too much of a luxury."
"With Dirk Bellemakers we take someone into the team of who we know that he is generous in his efforts for his teammates and who always has a positive mentality,” according to the team's press release. “He can go along in an early breakaway so his teammates are in a comfortable position, or he can be useful in the pursuit. Especially the Ardennes classics should suit him; and he's a training partner of Jelle Vanendert, so they already know each other very well."
Bellemakers, 28, turned pro in 2003 with Van Vliet-EBH Advocaten, before signing with Landbouwkrediet in 2007. His contract with the Belgian Professional Continental team expires the end of this year, and he has now signed for one year with Lotto Belisol. He has two wins, the GP Stad Geraardsbergen in 2008, and the Sint-Elooisprijs Ruddervoorde in 2011.
"Of course I am very happy with the opportunity that I am given. I have always kept on believing I would get a step higher and now it is up to me to grab that chance with both hands,” he said.
“Going to a WorldTour team as a 28-year-old seems late, but because of finishing my studies in commercial economics I only have been putting everything on cycling since the last two years. That's why I think I can still make progression on many levels. By riding in a better structured team, contesting in races on the highest level and working hard I should definitely be able to do better."
Last week Meersman left Lotto Belisol for Belgian rival Omega Pharma-Quick Step, although he still had a year left on his contract. He took advantage of the fact that Lotto had not yet received its WorldTour licence, leaving riders free to break their contract with no penalty.