Two-year AG2R-La Mondiale contract for Clément Venturini
2017 Four Days of Dunkirk winner Clément Venturini has put to paper, inking a two-year contract with AG2R-La Mondiale. The 23-year-old spent four seasons with Cofidis where he also won two stages of the Tour of Austria and is the current French 'cross champion.
"First of all, I would like to thank Cofidis for giving me a chance to race professionally starting in 2014. In my first four years as a professional, I have been able to learn a lot and to move up the ladder without having any pressure," Venturini said. "Now I am happy and proud to have the chance to start this new adventure with the AG2R-La Mondiale team. I live near Lyon, and so it is a special feeling for me to be able to race for a team with such deep Rhône-Alpes roots."
A junior 'cross world champion, Venturini is looking forward to the new challenge and exploring the WorldTour calendar.
"I often train with Hubert Dupont, and now I'll be able to wear the same jersey as him! Since I'm only 23 years old, I know I still have a lot to learn, so I am really looking forward to joining this team where I will have the chance to discover some new races that are on the UCI WorldTour calendar.From now on, I am going to give priority to my road career and hope that I continue to progress."
AG2R-La Mondiale team manager Vincent Lavenu explained Venturini is a rider he had admired and expects him to make an immediate impact from 2018.
"Clément won the Four Days of Dunkirk at the age of 23, which proves the talent of such a young rider.He is young and has a big future ahead of him," Lavenu said. "He is fast in the sprints, and also has the qualities of a puncheur. He can even climb well. He is a skilled bike handler and has many very good qualities. He will participate in the WordTour events which should help him to grow quickly. He has already proved that he can win races, and his abilities should further strengthen our team."
Venturini is the team's first signing for 2018 following the announcement that Romain Bardet, Oliver Naesen, Pierre Latour, Ben Gastauer, Axel Domont, and François Bidard all extended their contracts with the French team.
Luis Ángel Maté extends with Cofidis
The 33-year-old joined Cofidis in 2011 from Androni Giocattoli and has become a key member of the team's Grand Tour squads. Mate has ridden 11 Grand Tours with Cofidis, including the last six editions of the Tour de France.
"I'm sincerely happy to continue here for two more years. The team trusts me and I'll try to give them back the confidence and contribute my experience for the team to keep growing," said Mate who becomes the longest serving trider on the Cofidis roster. "I hope to continue improving and increasing my level.
"Even if a day arrives in the future when our paths separate, I will always have immense affection for Cofidis. It is not common to see cyclists spend nine years defending the same maillot."
During his time with Cofidis, Mate has raised his arms in triumph just once, the 2011 Route du Sud, but believes the team is getting stronger year-on-year and can claim Grand Tour stages in the future.
"The team has improved a lot. We already won in important races like Paris-Nice, Volta or Dauphiné. And we can already fight with WT teams to control the races," he added. "In San Remo, Hamburg or this year at the Tour de France we did good work, despite not getting the victory. Last year at the Vuelta we were ahead, catching breakaways and fighting for many stages. And this year we hope to achieve that victory we are looking for."
recovering from a boil that plagued his Tour de France, Mate is confident of making a full recovery in time for the Vuelta a España later this month and helping Cofidis claim a stage win.
LottoNL-Jumbo announce Pascal Eenkhoorn arrival
Dutchman Pascal Eenkhoorn will make the jump into the WorldTour ranks next season with the Dutchman signing a three-year deal with LottoNL-Jumbo. The 21-year-old joins from the BMC Development Team where he his performances caught the attention of sports director Merijn Zeeman.
"We want talents to develop in our team and give them time to grow. Pascal is very young, that's why he has a three-year contract," Zeeman said. "He's very driven. We still have to explore what his real speciality is, but he's a good time trialist and climber. Because he's young, we want to bring him slowly. By giving him a three-year education, he gets the possibility to develop into an established rider within the team."
For Eenkhoorn, the three-year contract is also a sign of the team's belief and commitment to his long-term development as a cyclist.
"It's a nice chance to ride for Team LottoNL-Jumbo the upcoming seasons. Sports Director Grischa Niermann and Merijn Zeeman contacted me in the beginning of the year," Eenkhoorn said. "After a good test, they provided a nice plan for the future. On that basis, I chose this team. I'm only twenty years old and rode with the espoirs for two years, so I need time to adjust. This contract shows that the team has confidence in me."
Eddie Dunbar signs for Aqua Blue Sport
Irishman Eddie Dunbar will move into the Pro-Continental ranks in 2018, joining Irish Pro-Continental squad Aqua Blue Sports from Axeon Hagen Bermans. Dunbar, 20, spent the 2015 season with Continental squad NFTO before moving onto Axeon Hagen Bermans for two seasons.
The U23 Tour of Flanders winner explained it was a simple decision to sign on the dotted line for Aqua Blue Sport in a release from the team.
"It is a dream come true to ride for an Irish professional team – it is great that I am going to have a chance to be part of this project," said Dunbar. "I have spent three years at Continental level and I now feel that the time is right to go up a level. The programme that Aqua Blue Sport offers, the big classics, stage races and the chance of a Grand Tour, all made my decision very easy. The team offers a dedicated performance staff and this makes for a great environment. I think, with this in mind, I can continue to make progress."
Aqua Blue Sport general manager Stephen Moore explained the team had its eye on Dunbar as a promising Irish rider and is thrilled to have secured his signature.
"It is fantastic news to sign such an incredible talent like Eddie Dunbar. From the outset of this project our stated aim has always been to eventually bring the best of Irish talent to the pro ranks," said Moore. "It is great to add to our Irish rider line up of Matt Brammeier, Conor Dunne and Martyn Irvine – an opportunity to sign Eddie is a huge coup for us. We all can't wait to see him in the blue and gold of Aqua Blue Sport."