EF Education-Nippo announced the signing of talented Norwegian Odd Christian Eiking on Wednesday. The 26-year-old joins the American squad after a highly successful Vuelta a España, where he led the race for seven stages and finished 11th overall.
Eiking has been on the radar of team CEO Jonathan Vaughters all season, in particular after his seventh place in the Clasica San Sebastian and his close second overall in the Arctic Race of Norway. But Vaughters said Eiking wanted to prove himself first in the Vuelta a España before signing with the team.
"He didn't want to talk about a contract until he'd proven himself in races and I thought, 'Damn, this guy's got some guts to basically turn down a potential offer and want to show his worth first'," Vaughters said. "Very few riders in his position would do that. The fact that he wanted to prove himself, I feel like that's an attitude that's going to take him a long way."
"I was watching him throughout the season. He was great in San Sebastian. He almost won the Arctic Race of Norway and then went to the Vuelta and had a great run in the leader's jersey. [He] almost pulled off a top 10 overall. I watched it all. I was talking to his agent the entire time and an opportunity came up to pull the trigger on it and I did not hesitate," Vaughters said.
Eiking signed with FDJ in 2016 after his U23 years with Team Joker. He was the best young rider in the Tour of Norway in his first pro season, and took on his first Grand Tour that year, finishing the Vuelta a España. His first pro victory came in 2017 at the Boucles de l'Aulne.
After two seasons with the French squad, Eiking moved to Wanty-Gobert in 2018 and stayed with the team through their rise to the WorldTour this season. He's won stages in the Tour de Wallonie and Arctic Race of Norway, but his stint in the Vuelta's red jersey was beyond his expectations.
"It's not something I ever imagined. I was hoping for a stage win but instead to have had the red jersey for so long, it was really, really amazing," Eiking said.
"It's changed me as a rider. It gave me more confidence, seeing that it's possible to stay with some of the best riders. I want to continue on this good path where I am now."
He hopes to continue his progression with EF Education-Nippo, where he'll link up with GC contenders Esteban Chaves and Rigoberto Uran and Vuelta triple stage winner Magnus Cort. "I need to be in a place where I can grow and develop and EF looks really great for me to develop. It looks like a really good group and I want to be a part of it," Eiking said.
"I'm excited to meet the team and to win races together. That's what I'm looking forward to. I really look forward to getting started next year. I hope as a team we can win races together. I hope, of course, that I also will be able to win some races. To be on a winning team is great no matter what. It's a really special feeling. I hope I can have a lot of that feeling next year and in the coming years."
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