Dutchman Lieuwe Westra has signed with the Pro Continental squad Wanty-Groupe Gobert for the 2017 season, the team announced today. The 34-year-old leaves behind a successful three-year stint at Astana and will refocus his goals on trying for more victories.
Westra was critical to helping Vincenzo Nibali win the 2014 Tour de France through his efforts on the cobbled stage to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, but he also tasted victory in the Volta a Catalunya and Criterium du Dauphine that year, and in this season won the overall at the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.
"Since that victory, I feel like I want to go for my own chances more often again," Westra said in a team press release. "I have had a wonderful time at Astana, and I want to thank the team for that. In a smaller team like Wanty-Groupe Gobert I can take up another role in the races. And that is something I am also looking forward to."
Prior to joining Astana in 2014, Westra raced under current Wanty directeur sportif Hilaire Van der Schueren with the Vacansoleil squad.
"On top of that, apart from Hilaire, I will be working with many familiar faces. In a way riding for this team will also feel a bit like coming home."
The team manager Jean-François Bourlart said he hopes to earn an invitation to a Grand Tour in the coming season, and Westra's presence in the team may help his cause.
"We want to maintain or maybe even exceed this year's results and will be aiming at another top ranking in the UCI Europe Tour next year," Bourlart said. "Moreover, it is not a secret we would like to ride a Grand Tour in 2017. With yet another experienced rider like Westra, we underline that ambition once more."