Dan McLay happy to end 'difficult' season with a win

Dan McLay's 2017 season might have stalled somewhat after a flying start, but he concluded it on a high note on Sunday by winning the Tour de l'Eurometropole.

24 hours later, the 25 year old British sprinter announced he was joining EF Education First-Drapac for the 2018 season, stepping up to WorldTour level with Jonathan Vaughters' team.

"I'm really happy to step up to the WorldTour, and I think this is the perfect team for me as I make that move to the top level," said McLay in a statement from the US-registered WorldTour team.

"This is a crucial moment in my career. I'm getting to the age where I'm no longer considered a young and developing rider. It's time for me to perform before the grey hairs start to appear."

His ambition for 2018 is simple.

"I hope to find a winning formula and get into a habit of winning," McLay said. "That's the main goal for next year."

McLay began his career in 2011 as a 19-year-old Dave Rayner Fund rider in Belgium. He took his first victory at the GP Stad Waregem and then another five wins in the weeks that followed. That earned him a place with Lotto's development program. He joined the Brittany - Séché Environment team in 2015 which became Fortuneo in 2016 and he made his Tour de France debut in 2016, taking four top ten top ten finishes, including third on stage six behind Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel. He earned another four top ten finishes at the 2017 Tour de France but failed to reach Paris.

"Dan is a rider that we have followed for a long time," said sport director Charly Wegelius. "His talent is clear for all to see. It's a big satisfaction to finally get him on board, and we are looking forward to helping him take the next steps in his development."

McLay began his 2017 season with a victory and a third place at the Trofeo Mallorca series in January. However, in his subsequent 71 race days, he only managed one podium, with a broken rib and sickness disrupting the first half of his season. 

On Sunday he survived a selective race at the Tour de l'Eurometropole, sprinting from a group of 18 and just pipping late attacker Anthony Turgis (Cofidis) to the line. 

"I've remembered how to win," said McLay. "I've had some difficult moments this year but I'm ending the season how I started it - with a win. I'm very happy to have lifted the arms."

McLay had to survive six ascents of the Col de la Croix Jubaru, the climb on the 14.7km finishing circuit, in order to contest the sprint, and by the time he was over it for the last time, most other sprinters were out of contention. As a group of 18 riders headed for the finish, Turgis launched his late attack, making the mistake of raising his arms in celebration just as McLay swept past him on the line. 

"The race was hard - it was on from start to finish. Thibault [Guernalec] really kept me out of the wind. I gave it everything on the final climb. I was in the red at the top, and I had to sit in the wheels to recover, but I knew I still the power to contest the victory," said McLay.

"Anthony Turgis raised his arms too early, but I think I'd have come past him anyway. I'm happy to end the season on a good note like this."

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