Current WorldTour road racer Frantisek Rabon is trading in his skinny tires for some fatter tires in 2014. The Omega Pharma-QuickStep team rider has signed with Specialized Racing Factory Mountain Bike Team for next season.
"I couldn't be more thrilled to join the Specialized Racing Factory MTB Team next year," said Rabon according to his new team. "I've always loved mountain bike racing and to have the support and expertise of Specialized behind me is truly a dream come true."
Rabon started his professional road career in 2006 with T-Mobile, which later became HTC-Highroad. The Czech super domestique signed with the Omega Pharma-QuickStep road squad in 2012, where his hard work and massive engine helped solidify him as a time trial expert.
A three-time Czech time trial national champion as well as stage winner in the Tour of Romandie, Tour of Murcia and Tour de l'Ain, Rabon has always relished the race of truth. Coming to mountain biking for the 2014 season, Rabon will highlight numerous high-level marathon and endurance cross country events on his calendar and is anxious to explore the new chapter of his career.
He is one of the latest casualties of the more limited opportunities for pro road racers due to there being fewer top teams for next season and therefore fewers spots for riders on those top teams.
"The situation in road cycling is a disaster, and I did not want to go the route of what was required to get a place on a WorldTour team," Rabon told www.sport.cz. "From the first contact to signing a contract with Specialized Racing took only one week, quite a pleasant surprise compared to dealing with road teams."
Rabon opted to switch pavement for dirt instead of settling for a "dirt cheap" salary with a WorldTour team or transferring to a lower division team.
When asked about the differences between his former road contracts and his new mountain bike team contract, he told www.sport.cz, "It's set up differently. There are more bonuses for results, which is logical because it's more of an individual sport. But I was pleasantly surprised by the offer. If I am successful, I can get almost to the level of money that I had on the road. On the road, I got a higher base salary because I was a domestique, but no bonuses."
"For me, it was a priority to try something new. It's a challenge. I'll have the best technology and from the road, I know I'll have no problem racing six or seven hours at a time."
Rabon will be the third Czech rider, after Jaroslav Kulhavy and Teresa Hurikova, to wear the Specialized Racing team kit next year. Last week, Rabon spent some time training with his new teammate Kulhavy. Next, he will head to Mallorca in early December, then switch his focus to some time in South Africa.