Vergard Stake Laengen has signed a two-year contract with Project TJ Sport, the Chinese-backed team that will emerge next season from the Lampre-Merida organisation.
The Norwegian finished his first Grand Tours with IAM Cycling this season, completing both the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana. A time trial specialist, he was third in the Chianti time trial in the Giro d'Italia, and will add a big motor to the Project TJ Sports line-up.
"I really like time trial and I like to join the breakaways: if I should choose goals for the next years, I'd love to get a stage victory in a Grand Tour, perhaps in a time trial or thanks to an attack. I'm aware of the fact that these are ambitious goals, I'll try to do my best to achieve them. I thank the teams and who have supported me in my career and TJ Sport for having chosen me for their project."
Laengen come from the now-defunct IAM Cycling squad, and follows the signings of Ben Swift from Team Sky, Darwin Atapuma from BMC, Andrea Guardini (Astana), Marco Marcato (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), and a number of riders returning with the team including Diego Ulissi, Rui Costa and Louis Meintjes.
Reto Hollenstein signs with Katusha
Another IAM Cycling rider, Reto Hollenstein, has found a home for next season. Reto Hollenstein has signed with Team Katusha, the Russian squad announced today.
The Swiss rider is a time trial specialist, who parlayed a strong performance in the prologue of the Baloise Belgium Tour this season into a second place finish overall.
"I am very happy to join Team Katusha. This is another step upwards in my career," Hollenstein said. "Katusha is a big team, becoming more and more international, and has a lot of good riders. I am delighted to be able to work for Alexander Kristoff, Ilnur Zakarin and many others.
"For me this is just a dream coming true. What maybe makes me most happy is that the team was keen to have me. They know they can count on me to work and I will not disappoint them. Of course everybody has personal ambitions but my first focus will be the team. I am happy when the team is happy. My own ambitions are secondary."
Katusha's general manager Viacheslav Ekimov signed Hollenstein because of his versatility and his dedication to his teams. "The nice thing about Reto is that we can exploit his skills in all kinds of races," Ekimov said. "Reto has shown in the last years that he is fully dedicated to his employer. Classics, Grand Tours or smaller races, it doesn't matter to him. The fact that for the last three years IAM Cycling brought Reto to the Tour de France says enough."
Veranda's Willems to World Championships in Qatar
Although many of the WorldTour teams have opted out of racing the team time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Doha, Qatar, the Belgian Continental team Veranda's Willems is heading to the event with high hopes.
The team named its six riders who will compete in the event: Elias Van Breussegem, Sander Cordeel, Jan Ghyselinck, Stef Van Zummeren, Aidis Kruopis and Christophe Prémont.
The team has been practicing on an airfield in Ursel, East-Flanders, Belgium and training for the heat in a specially designed climate chamber at the main sponsor Veranda's Willems' showroom in Sint Martens Latem.
"The team time trial is part of our DNA," team trainer Kristof De Kegel said. "This year we beat some well-respected WorldTour teams in the Tour of Croatia. Personally I think this event is one of the best in cycling. You can get everything out of your riders by training systematically. Of course, you need a homogenous group of riders which we have at Veranda's Willems but also the weakest link needs to perform to his maximum ability. We trained those systems during four days at the airfield in Ursel."
As one of only 15 teams to take the start for the men's team time trial, De Kegel is aiming to make the top 10, but mainly views the race as an experience and a reward for the riders.
"We see this as a reward for the guys who worked so hard for Timothy Dupont and others this year. Those wins were a real team effort. We would therefore like to give them this wonderful experience to take part in the world championships," De Kegel said.
Laurens De Plus suffers pelvis fracture
Etixx-Quickstep rider Laurens De Plus has called his season to an end after being diagnosed with a small fracture to his pelvis, the team announced today.
The 21-year-old neo pro crashed early in Thursday's Gran Piemonte, and must now take three weeks of rest.