Debusschere signs for Katusha-Alpecin

Belgian departs Lotto Soudal after eight seasons

Jens Debusschere will ride for Katusha-Alpecin in 2019, bringing an end to his eight-year tenure with Lotto Soudal. The former Belgian champion will bolster Katusha's line-up in the cobbled Classics.

"I am not just happy; I am extremely happy. I come to a team that has always been interested in the spring Classics and putting someone in the finales," Debusschere said in a statement on Tuesday. "I also arrive in a team where I find some other Belgian riders and staff, plus this team uses super-good bikes. I'm looking forward to it.

"After eight years in the same team, it was time to make a new move in my career. I will focus on the Classics, but I will still remain a sprinter as well. I have proved I can be a good lead-out man, and in the smaller races I can go for the win myself. It all looks nice."

Debusschere turned professional with Lotto in 2011, and he enjoyed his first major victories at the end of the 2013 season, including the Tour de l’Eurometropole. The following year, he sprinted to victory at the Belgian Championships in Wielsbeke, and he enjoyed a fine spring in 2015 in the colours of national champion, winning a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico and scoring top-10 finishes at Paris-Roubaix and Gent-Wevelgem.

The Roeselaere native won Dwars door Vlaanderen in 2016, denying Bryan Coquard in the sprint, but endured frustration when a crash at Gent-Wevelgem ruled him out of the remainder of that year's Classics. This season, Debusschere placed fifth at Gent-Wevelgem and ninth at Paris-Roubaix, and claimed a stage win at the Tour de Wallonie.

"The reason we have signed Jens is because he's a rider who can get a good result in the one-day Belgian Classics. He's a rider who can finish top 10 in the Classics," said Katusha-Alpecin general manager José Azevedo.

"Also, while we have a good group of riders for these races, we want to make this group stronger, especially [by adding] a guy with more experience, like he has. He's shown in the past years that he can be in the front in the Classics. Plus, he's a fast rider; he can also be one of the sprinters on our team and we can look to him to be in the lead-out for Marcel Kittel as he did for André Greipel in the past."

Debusschere is the latest part of André Greipel’s lead-out train to leave Lotto Soudal. Greipel will ride for Fortuneo-Oscaro in 2019, while Lars Bak joins Dimension Data and Marcel Sieberg has signed for Bahrain-Merida.

The Belgian is Katusha's second confirmed new signing for 2019 following the announcement of neo-professional Harry Tanfield’s imminent arrival. Tony Martin recently confirmed that he will leave Katusha for LottoNL-Jumbo.

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