Sohrabi key to Lotto-Ridley's WorldTour status

Sergeant beat off competition for Iranian's signature

Marc Sergeant has revealed that his new Lotto-Ridley team’s place in the 2012 UCI WorldTour is thanks in no small part to the surprise signing of Iranian Mehdi Sohrabi, winner of the 2011 Asia Tour.

Sohrabi’s impressive haul of UCI points made him a valuable commodity for teams bidding to gain automatic entry to the elite division next season and he had been heavily linked with a move to Ag2r-La Mondiale in recent weeks. The Iranian was also in talks with Geox-TMC, but ultimately plumped for Lotto-Ridley, even though Sergeant did not publicly announce his arrival until this week.

In spite of that delay, Sohrabi was included with André Greipel, Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Jelle Vanendert among the fifteen riders whose points counted towards Lotto-Ridley’s total in the UCI’s assessment of their sporting value, and the team's WorldTour status was confirmed on Tuesday.

“We did well to keep the secret, eh?” Sergeant told Het Nieuwsblad. “Everywhere he was reported as having signed for Geox, for Ag2r and other teams. But eventually, he signed with us.”

The 30-year-old Sohrabi has spent the past three seasons with the Tabriz Petrochemical squad, where he has been a dominant presence on the Asian calendar and topped the Asia Tour rankings in both 2010 and 2011. Lotto made contact with Sohrabi through Ridley, who also supply bikes to Tabriz Petrochemical.

“He was looking towards Geox first, but when the sponsor dropped out, we tried our luck,” Sergeant explained. “We were able to get in touch quickly because Sohrabi has been riding with Ridley for three years. We made him an offer and he accepted it.”


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