Team Sunweb have confirmed the signings of veteran rider Jan Bakelants and up-and-coming rider Asbjorn Kragh Andersen for the 2019 season. The news comes hot on the heels of the announcement that Belgian sprinter Edward Theuns has cut his contract short.
Bakelants moves to Sunweb after four seasons with the French AG2R La Mondiale squad. Having turned professional with Topsport Vlaanderen in 2008, Bakelants stepped up to WorldTour level with Omega Pharma-Lotto two years later. He spent two seasons with them before moving to RadioShack for two years and then returning to the Belgian outfit for one more year.
The 32-year-old had a late start to his 2018 season after suffering a serious crash at Il Lombardia last year. The incident left him with two broken vertebrae and several broken ribs, and he later said that he had to readjust his position on the bike after discovering he had lost a centimetre in height.
"I’m really happy to be joining Team Sunweb. From the conversations we’ve had since early 2018, it has become clear that Team Sunweb is a genuine team who use science to maximise the potential of its riders," said Bakelants. "It will be a new challenge that I will grasp with both hands, after a difficult 2018 season following my Lombardy crash at the end of last year. I’m really looking forward to becoming a part of the team, it feels like a new start to me."
With a number of important riders, such as Laurens ten Dam and Simon Geschke, leaving the squad, Bakelants injects some much-needed experience into the squad, particularly to support Tom Dumoulin in the Grand Tours.
"Jan brings a wealth of experience to the team with his diverse capabilities," said team coach Marc Reef. "We believe that he will strengthen our program with a steady high level throughout the season and he will be able to share his experience with our younger guys. His team spirit is a characteristic that is extremely valued by us. With his qualities as a rider, he will provide important support in the hilly Classics and Grand Tours, and play a captain role in races."
Another Kragh Andersen
Kragh Andersen joins his brother Soren, who has been with the team since the 2016 season. At 26, Asbjorn is two years older than his brother. He has spent much of his career at the various guises of the Continental-level Team Virtu squad, which recently changed its name to Team Waoo.
The Dane did enjoy a two-year spell at Pro Continental level with Delko Marseille Provence KTM, but this will be his debut at WorldTour level.
"I’m really looking forward to my WorldTour debut with Team Sunweb," he said. "The direction and the ways in which the team work are exactly the ways that I also like to work and I feel like I’ll fit into the team. Everything is in control but there is still enough room to try new things, to excel and make improvements across the board. I like the spring classics and also the short, punchy climbs. I can do a good sprint and lead out and hope to bring good value to that aspect of the team."
According to Reef, Kragh Andersen has been brought on as support in the Classics and the sprints.
"We’ve had Asbjorn on our radar for quite some time now and we’re pleased to welcome him to the team," he said. "He brings support for the Classics and also adds value to our sprint train. We aim to develop these two qualities to enable him to reach top level. His mentality to perform as a team and the positive energy he brings are important values to us and will for sure make us stronger. We are looking forward to the new season with Asbjorn."