The COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed the rider transfer market to a near halt and temporarily cut off the pathways for a number of aspiring young riders, but Florian Vermeersch became a professional rider on Monday.
The U23 Belgian champion has joined Lotto Soudal, having graduated from the Belgian team's U23 squad.
The mid-season move was always part of the plan and has not been thrown off by the suspension of racing. Vermeersch signed a contract in December that would see him remain in the U23 category for the first part of the year before joining the WorldTour outfit on June 1.
He has not raced in 2020 but still made the step up to WorldTour level.
"This is a perfect way to join the WorldTour team," Vermeersch said when he signed his contract.
"I'm convinced that this will boost my development as a rider. "I had always dreamed of becoming a pro rider, and so a dream has come true."
Vermeersch has a background in cyclo-cross but turned his focus to the road full-time from 2019. He landed the Belgian U23 road race title with a solo victory that August and had an early win in 2020 at Brussel-Zepperen.
His debut in the professional ranks - originally set to be June's Belgium Tour - will be delayed, with racing suspended until at least July, but Vermeersch will be encouraged to develop at his own pace.
He is touted as a strong Classics prospect with a good sprint finish.
"Florian is strong – a big talent with a huge potential. The 2019 season was just his first year as real road cyclist," said Lotto Soudal manager John Lelangue.
"Florian convinced us, not only with his [U23] national road title, but in many other races, including the Tour de Moselle, where he won three of the four stages and the GC. He can start with us in a slow, smooth way. Later, he can do some other small stage races."
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