Skil-Shimano frees Houanard, reels in Sprick

Frenchman added to increase Tour appeal

Professional Continental team Skil-Shimano has confirmed it’s terminated Steve Houanard’s contract, allowing the rider to take up his position at AG2R La Mondiale. Houanard signed with the French squad in August but as he was already under contract for 2011 with the Dutch squad he required Skil-Shimano’s blessing in order to make the move.

“Skil-Shimano earlier already stated that it was prepared to let Houanard go since it was able to contract a replacement,” said a release from the squad. “Houanard is now free to join his new team.”

Houanard joined Skil-Shimano as a trainee in 2008 and has remained with the squad ever since. Two top 10 places in stages of the Tour of Luxembourg and Bayern Rundfahrt were his top results from this season.

The squad has also announced a new signing this week in the form of Frenchman Matthieu Sprick. The 29-year-old joins Skil-Shimano from Bbox Bouygues Telecom, which had looked set to collapse until Europecar came onboard at the end of last month.

Sprick has extensive experience as a general classification helper in the Grand Tours, which fits with Skil’s goal of bolstering its appeal to Grand Tour organisers. Sprick has contested the Tour de France on five occasions, reaching the finish on four of those editions, and has also contested the Vuelta a España on two occasions and the Giro d’Italia once.

“It appeals to me that riders at Skil-Shimano are given the opportunity to take their own chances at certain times, which fits in well with my goal of continuing to develop and put in good performances,” said Sprick. “I also share Skil-Shimano’s ambition of building up the team to bring participation in the Tour de France within reach again. I will do my utmost to achieve that.”

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