Marcel Kittel's surprise transfer to Etixx-QuickStep has been backed up on Wednesday by the team's signing of Maximiliano Richeze. The Argentine has joined from Lampre-Merida on a two-year deal.
Cyclingnews reported in August that Richeze was set to sign for the Belgian team, who were also negotiating at the time with Richeze's Lampre teammate Sacha Modolo, who has since decided to stay put. Richeze, now 32, has worked as a lead-out man at Lampre for the last three years, and will come on board to bolster the team's sprint set-up based around Kittel and neo-pro Fernando Gaviria.
"We decided to take Richeze in our team because of his experience as a lead-out man. We know his skills as a lead-out man have improved in the last years, to where we consider him one of the best lead-out riders in the peloton," said Etixx-QuickStep CEO Patrick Lefevere.
"With the arrival of Marcel Kittel, Richeze will step into the role of setting him up for the sprints. I am looking forward to seeing what these two can achieve working together. Richeze is also the perfect solution for a guy like Fernando Gaviria, who is young. Richeze will put his experience at his service, and help Gaviria to stay in the peloton, and to lead out when necessary."
Next year will be the first in Richeze's professional career that he hasn't ridden for an Italian team, having spent four years at the team currently known as Bardiani-CSF, two at Nippo, and the last three at Lampre. His best results came at the 2007 Giro d'Italia, where he won two stages, but he has largely been used as a lead-out man at Lampre. That will be his main role at Etixx, but he is also holding out for his own opportunities to chase a win in races where there's no Kittel or Gaviria.
"I'm happy to join the team and to have this opportunity. I'm honoured to be at the service of a guy like Marcel Kittel, who everyone knows is among the top sprinters in the world. I will do my best to put him in the best position as his lead-out man," Richeze said.
"I am also excited to help Fernando Gaviria, as he is a young and talented rider. From what we've seen until now, as a stagiaire, he is a guy who knows already how to handle the duties as a sprinter. I hope my function will be to give both Kittel and Gaviria the support they need.
"But of course besides this, I hope to also have my chance in races where the team goes without a pure sprinter. I would like to try and go for some individual victories if there is an opportunity at some races."