AG2R La Mondiale sign young sprint-classics talent and extend with four riders
23-year-old Rudy Barbier joins while Cherel, Dupont, Domont, Bakelants all extend
AG2R La Mondiale has made their first signing of the 2016 transfer window and has extended the contracts of four of their current squad members.
The 23-year-old Frenchman Rudy Barbier is the new acquisition, signed from continental outfit Roubaix-Lille Métropole on a two-year deal, while Mikaël Chérel, Hubert Dupont, Axel Domont, and Jan Bakelants have all signed two-year extensions.
"After two seasons at Continental level, I'm really happy to join the AG2R La Mondiale in the WorldTour. It still hasn't sunk in how lucky I am and I hope to meet expectations," said Barbier, who is a sprinter-classics rider crossover in the mold of compatriot Arnaud Démare.
"I'll approach this new experience with humility but with a desire to do well. I'm young, I still have things to learn, and I'm going to discover new races. Naturally, the northern Classics are my dream races and I hope I can show myself and bring something to the team, even if I'm aware that those races are really tough."
Barbier won the Cholet-Pays De Loire and Paris-Troyes this year as well as finishing second on the opening stage of Critérium International, and AG2R boss Vincent Lavenu has seen enough to be convinced of his potential.
"Rudy is a young rider for the future. For me, he's just behind the major French trio of Demare, Bouhanni, and Coquard," said Lavenu. "He has shown great things this year, notably with his victory at Cholet Pays de Loire. He has a strong burst of speed and given his youth he can still make his way up the hierarchy. We'll also be counting on him in the cobbled classics."
The French WorldTour team received a boost last month as AG2R La Mondiale, a sponsor for 19 years now, committed its backing through to 2020, giving the team and riders some security. As well as the new French signing, three more home riders are among the four to have been offered fresh two-year deals.
Mickaël Chérel has committed his future to team he has called home since 2011 after a prominent display at the Tour de France last month. Despite not feeling at his best for much of the race, the 30-year-old was the architect of the attack that saw Romain Bardet jump from fifth to second overall on stage 19.
Hubert Dupont has spent pretty much his whole career with AG2R and the 35-year-old proved he's in good shape to take on his 12th and 13th seasons there by finishing 11th overall at the Giro d'Italia in May. 25-year-old Axel Domont also began his career at AG2R in 2013 and will stay for two more years, as will Belgian Jan Bakelants, who joined from QuickStep in 2015 and won a stage of La Méditerranéenne earlier this year.
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