Caleb Ewan's move from Mitchelton-Scott to Lotto Soudal was given a boost with German Roger Kluge, 32, following the Australian sprinter across to the Belgian team. Kluge has been a vital part of Ewan's lead-out train and has committed to remaining in that role for two more seasons.
"During the past two seasons and thanks to the many races Caleb and I rode together, we established a good relationship. He became a true friend and I hope to be racing in the same team as him for a long time - maybe even until I quit cycling," Kluge said in a press release. "Of course, we're nowhere near that yet and I'm looking forward to helping him win other races and to support all the Lotto Soudal riders in the next seasons.
"My main role in the team is to position Caleb well in the sprint. Whether I am the last or second last man in the lead-out, I have to make sure he's in the best position to sprint "
Kluge played a role in Ewan's five stage wins in the Tour Down Under in the past two seasons and in Ewan's runner-up spot in Milan-San Remo.
"I can look back with great satisfaction on the things he achieved and my part in those achievements. There are, of course, the many victories in the Tour Down Under, but there's also this year's Milan-San Remo," Kluge recalled. "Though he didn't win, he was the fastest man of the peloton, which came just a bit too late to reel in Nibali. I managed to position him well at the foot of the Poggio and Caleb eventually sprinted to a nice second place. That impressive sprint really showed off his strength and talent. Furthermore, at Lotto Soudal we'll also be given new opportunities to compete for those Grand Tour stage victories again."
While with Mitchelton-Scott, Kluge never made a Grand Tour selection, despite winning a stage of the Giro d'Italia with IAM Cycling in 2016. With the departure of Andre Greipel (to Fortuneo-Samsic), Marcel Sieberg (to Bahrain-Merida), Moreno Hofland (EF-Drapac), Jens Debusschere (Katusha-Alpecin), and Lars Bak (Dimension Data), the team looks to be completely transformed for 2019, opening up more possibilities for the German in the Grand Tours.
"I'm really looking forward to riding for Lotto Soudal in the next seasons. I've been a professional cyclist for quite a while now as I've signed my first contract with a WorldTour team in 2010. Next year will be my ninth season as a pro, but becoming part of Lotto Soudal feels like an entire new chapter," Kluge said.
"Of course, I'm also very happy to keep racing in the same team as Caleb. At Lotto Soudal he will be given new chances to prove he's one of the fastest men of the peloton and I will definitely help him with achieving his goals."
Kluge is the reigning world champion in the Madison and hopes to continue to compete on the track, but will keep his focus firmly on the road.
"First and foremost, I'm a road cyclist. Though, track cycling has always been a big part of my life as well. I'm extremely proud of my rainbow jersey, but my focus remains on my career as a road cyclist. If there's a possibility to win more races on the track, I'll definitely take my chance. But, like I said, my role and results at Lotto Soudal are my main priority."
In addition to serving on Ewan's lead-out train, Kluge sees a role for himself in the team's Classics squads.
"I really love those races, and - as I will be riding for a Belgian team - they will become even more special. At my age, I assume to be a bit more experienced than the other guys in the team, so that I can help the Classics riders in the team as well," he said.
"As I'm probably also the heaviest one of the team, Classics like Paris-Roubaix and Gent-Wevelgem suit me the most: tough races, in which a rider of my type or a sprinter can still cheer at the end. It's not really a goal to win such races myself. I could obtain a place in the top 20, but that doesn't prove much at my age. Helping teammates to finish on the podium is worth just as much than winning myself. Of course, I won't say no to another Grand Tour stage victory, but only if there's no other teammate there and the opportunity presents itself."