Elia Viviani returns to Ineos Grenadiers

Elia Viviani (Team Sky) beats Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) to win the stage 2 sprint at Three Days of De Panne
Viviani during his previous stint at Ineos Grenadiers (then Team Sky) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Ineos Grenadiers have confirmed the signing of Italian sprinter Elia Viviani, who rejoins the team for the 2022 season having left in 2018.

Viviani, who raced for the team when it was known as Team Sky from 2015 to 2017, has since raced with Deceuninck-QuickStep and Cofidis, and now rejoins the British squad where he racked up 17 wins, including a stage of the 2015 Giro d'Italia, the Cyclassics Hamburg, and the Bretagne Classic.

The 32-year-old has endured a tough two-year spell at Cofidis following the two most productive seasons of his career at QuickStep.

After a winless 2020 he has rebounded this season to take seven victories as well as Omnium bronze at the Tokyo Olympics and the rainbow jersey in the Elimination Race at the recent Track World Championships. Having signed a three-year deal with Ineos, he's locked in through the Paris Olympics in 2024.

"From the moment I left the team, I had in my head that one day I would come back – and now that day has come and I couldn't be happier," Viviani said in a team statement announcing the news.

"In my years away, I've never lost contact with the team – with Dave [Brailsford], Rod [Ellingworth], and with the Italian riders and coaches. I am really good friends with lots of the team members and especially Dave. I never missed an opportunity to speak with him at races about cycling, my team, my season, and this team. This feels like coming back to a family for me."

Ineos Grenadiers haven't employed a top-level sprinter since Viviani moved away four years ago, instead focusing largely on stage racing. It remains to be seen how the Italian, who can count stage wins at all three Grand Tours among his 85 professional victories, will fit in with the team's Grand Tour squads next season.

"In my final year with the team in 2017 I won nine races, including Hamburg and Plouay," Viviani said. "I also won my first Giro d'Italia stage in my first year in the team. That was a dream goal for me and it was thanks to this team that I won. It really feels like I can start again from that point.

"Next year the goal is to win as many races as I can because that's the job of a sprinter. But I can also support the young group of Grenadiers and pass on my experience. I hope I can be an example to follow and an experienced guy around the incredibly talented young group that is being built."

With Viviani's contract taking him through to the next Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, he said that he hopes working with Ineos across road and track will help him add to his Omnium bronze and gold (at Rio 2016) in three years' time.

"My deal takes me to Paris 2024. I realised how important the Olympics are to me this year and I am privileged to be in a team that will support me," he said. "I look at how Filippo [Ganna] was able to perform on the road for the team this year and on the track in Tokyo. I also remember Rio 2016 like it was yesterday, and how the team helped me then too. That gold medal also partly belonged to this team.

"I've had a tough two years and the Olympics gave me back what I've missed – the legs, confidence, conviction and belief in myself. My Bronze medal this year has given me the belief to step up to my level again.

"I think this is the best place for me to be at this stage in my career. I've done everything I can to come back and I feel proud as a person that I left on good terms and left something good here. Now that's paid off."

Omar Fraile and Ben Turner also join

LUZ ARDIDEN FRANCE JULY 15 Omar Fraile of Spain and Team Astana Premier Tech at Col du Tourmalet 2115m during the 108th Tour de France 2021 Stage 18 a 1297km stage from Pau to Luz Ardiden 1715m LeTour TDF2021 on July 15 2021 in Luz Ardiden France Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Spanish champion Omar Fraile joins Ineos Grenadiers from Astana-Premier Tech (Image credit: Getty Images)

Having announced the arrival of 21-year-old German Kim Heiduk on Monday morning, Ineos went on to announce three further signings throughout the day, Viviani being the last.

In between, the team announced they have acquired the services of Spanish climber Omar Fraile from Astana-Premier Tech and neo-pro Ben Turner from Trinity Racing.

Fraile, who has also raced for Orbea, Caja Rural and Dimension Data during a 10-year career, joins Ineos on a two-year deal after spending four seasons with Astana.

Currently the Spanish national road champion after beating Jesus Herrada in June, Fraile is one of a select group of 103 riders to have won a stage of each Grand Tour, and also has two Vuelta a España mountain classification titles on his palmarès.

"Ineos has always been the team that you dream of riding for, it's always been the team that I've looked at and wanted to race for," Fraile said.

"It's a team where you see the riders really working together as a team, and that's what I really enjoy doing, being there and working for my teammates. I think it's going to be a good fit, and I'm really looking forward to working with everyone."

Deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth, who said that Ineos had been tracking Fraile for some time, praised his versatility on the bike and willingness to work for others, a role he is likely to take at the leader-heavy squad.

"Omar is a rider that has been on our radar for a while," he said. "He has shown time and again his versatility as a bike racer and his willingness to help and show unwavering support to his teammates. An attitude that fits so well with the Ineos Grenadiers ethos. We're excited to have him on board for the coming season, I think he will be a great fit for the team."

22-year-old Ben Turner – the fourth rider aged under 23 to join the team this off-season – makes the move after establishing himself on the cyclo-cross circuit. A contemporary of Tom Pidcock, he placed third behind his compatriot and new teammate in the junior Cyclo-cross World Championships in 2017.

Turner moved to Belgium aged 17 to pursue his cyclo-cross ambitions, and the Doncaster native raced for Beobank–Corendon and Creafin–Fristads before switching to Trinity Racing last year.

"Coming from cross I’m probably a rider more tailored towards the Classics, races that are a bit punchy, I think that comes quite naturally from racing cross. I don’t want to say I’m an all-rounder, but I guess I can do a bit of everything," said Turner, who is the latest young British talent to join Ineos following Pidcock, Ethan Hayter and Ben Tulett.

"The British youngsters in cycling are getting big now, I think there is a lot of strength and depth, if you look at Ineos there’s Tom and Ethan and Ben coming in as well, it’s really special to be a part of that."

The moves bring Ineos' incoming list for 2022 to seven, following the arrivals of Heiduk, Ben Tulett (from Alpecin-Fenix), Luke Plapp, and Magnus Sheffield (from Rally Cycling).

Rohan Dennis heads up the names leaving the squad next year as he moves to Jumbo-Visma. Gianni Moscon, Sebastián Henao, and Leonardo Basso head to Astana Qazaqstan, while Iván Sosa moves to Movistar and Owain Doull to EF Education-Nippo, and Michal Gołaš retires.

The team has also undergone a management shakeup following a year which started off brightly with wins at the Volta a Catalunya, Tour de Romandie, Giro d'Italia and Critérium du Dauphiné before tailing off as the squad failed to the win the Tour de France for the second season in a row.

Longstanding head coach Tim Kerrison has left the team, while Roger Hammond has joined as lead directeur sportif from Bahrain. Meanwhile, team boss Dave Brailsford is expected to relinquish direct control of the team to Rod Ellingworth and take up a more central role at Ineos.

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