Gert Steegmans will end his 12-year cycling career with immediate effect despite having a contract with Trek Factory Racing until the end of the season. Steegmans joined Trek at the start of the season, after he failed to secure a new contract with Etixx-QuickStep, and was set to play a key role for Fabian Cancellara at the Classics.
The Classics proved a tumultuous affair for Trek when Cancellara ultimately crashed out during E3 Harelbeke. Steegmans suffered a several crashes throughout the spring campaign, most notably at Gent-Wevelgem where he was blown into a river during the terrible conditions. He hit the deck again at the Three days of De Panne and was unable to compete at the Tour of Flanders. Steegmans last competed at the Belgian national championships at the end of June.
“I have been playing with the thought of retirement since my crash in Driedaagse De Panne, when I ended up in an ambulance for the second time in three days. Then I was a week off the bike and started in Paris-Roubaix, which ended in another crash for me,” said Steegmans.
“One year ago I also considered retiring, but then Trek came along. I am thankful to Luca (Guercilena) for the chance he gave me last winter. He gave me an opportunity when I found myself without a team and I was hungry for a ride. I was brought in to add strength to the Classics team and to watch over the young sprinters in the team - and I was very motivated to do well and prove my value.”
He has predominantly ridden for Belgian teams, turning professional in 2003 with Lotto-Domo and spending two stints with QuickStep. His biggest successes came early on with two stage wins at the Tour de France, including a prestigious win on the Champs Élysées.
Steegmans was set to move to Tinkoff Credit Systems in 2009 but the team folded and he spent the year riding with Katusha. He hit the headlines that season when he refused to sign an anti-doping charter which resulted in the team not selecting him for the Tour de France and his contract was dissolved that August. Steegmans moved to RadioShack for the following season before returning to QuickStep in 2011.
“This sport has given me so much. I consider myself a lucky guy to have had so many lifetime experiences to cherish. I had a lot of fun along the way and met a lot of very nice people. That’s what I take away from this. I don’t like looking back much, I prefer looking forward.”
Bora-Argon 18 sign Mühlberger and Pöstlberger as stagiaires
Gregor Mühlberger and Lukas Pöstlberger have landed stagiaire positions with the Professional Continental outfit Bora-Argon 18 beginning on August 1.
Mühlberger, 21, has an agreement to compete as a stagiare (his second time) followed by a two-year deal with the team beginning in 2016. He won the overall classification of the Tour of Upper Austria, the Friedensfahrt and the Austrian U23 time trial championships this year.
Pöstlberger, 23, An Post Ras, the prologue of the Istrian Spring Trophy and a stage of the Tour of Austria.
"This year, we looked specifically for stage race riders from the German-speaking countries. We had one of the spots guaranteed for Gregor, and he confirmed this trust with his great successes this season. He has exceptional physical conditions and he is also climbing and time trialing very strongly - a perfect tour rider. We have Lukas on our radar for quite a while now and he finally convinced us with his successes this season. Despite his young age, he rides very consistently at a high level," said team manager Ralph Denk.
"We are constantly in talks with the best German U23-riders as well. It's no secret that the German youngsters develop fantastically - also in the field of classification riders. We offered our third stagiaire spot to a German rider. Unfortunately it didn’t work out this year, since his current team didn’t approve. It’s a pity, but we have to respect that."
Etixx-QuickStep interested in Van den Broeck
Etixx-QuickStep are shopping around for a general classification rider and it seems that Belgian national time trial champion Jurgen Van Den Broeck is on their radar. Van Den Broeck, who was overlooked for this year's Tour de France, is out of contract with his Lotto-Soudal team at the end of the season.
"I will not deny that he is on my list," Lefevere said of Van den Broeck. "But he's certainly not the only classification rider appearing on that list."