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Gesbert and Guernalec extend with Arkéa-Samsic

Elie Gesbert is congratulated by French president Emmanuel Macron after stage 14 of the 2019 Tour de France.
Élie Gesbert is congratulated by French president Emmanuel Macron after stage 14 of the 2019 Tour de France. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Despite the pervading economic uncertainty in professional cycling due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Arkéa-Samsic have announced contract extensions for two riders, Élie Gesbert and Thibault Guernalec.

In a statement on Monday, the Pro Continental team confirmed that the Bretons Gesbert and Guernalec will remain on board until the end of the 2022 season.

The 24-year-old Gesbert has raced the Tour de France in each of the past three seasons, but his 2020 campaign was interrupted early when he sustained a fractured kneecap at Challenge Mallorca in February.

"The fact that [Arkéa-Samsic manager] Emmanuel Hubert has signed me to a two-year contract extension is a great show of confidence towards me from him and the whole Arkéa-Samsic team," Gesbert said.

"I'm injured, and knowing that I have a contract for the 2021 and 2022 seasons is excellent for the morale: firstly, taking into consideration the current context of this pandemic, and secondly, given my injury and the fact that I'm still rehabilitating."

Gesbert made headlines in his second Tour in 2018 when Gianni Moscon was expelled from the race for aiming a punch in his direction on stage 15. A solid climber, the Saint-Brieuc native placed 4th overall at the Tour de l'Ain last season and 5th in the inaugural Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge.

The 22-year-old Guernalec turned professional in 2018 and placed fourth overall at the Vuelta a Murcia before the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to racing in March. "This allows me to keep working calmly," he said of the contract extension. "I am going to be able approach the end of the season in a relaxed way."

The UCI confirmed last week that all racing is suspended until at least July 1 due to the coronavirus pandemic, though a contingency plan is in the process of being drawn up for the remainder of the season.

The postponed Tour de France has been rescheduled for August 29-September 20, pending the lifting of current restrictions on public and sporting events in France due to the coronavirus pandemic. The UCI has unveiled plans for the cycling season to be extended in order to hold races that have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, in which case the Giro d'Italia would take place in October and the Vuelta a España in November.

Arkéa-Samsic manager Emmanuel Hubert last week welcomed the news that ASO is still planning to hold the Tour de France despite the coronavirus pandemic. His team signed Nairo Quintana during the off-season and the Colombian highlighted his Tour credentials with a sparkling opening to the 2020 campaign that saw him win the Tour de la Provence, the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var and the summit finish atop La Colmiane at Paris-Nice.

"I hope that all countries are going to be able to come out of lockdown at the same time so there's perfect sporting equity," Hubert told L'Équipe last week. "I have some riders on my team who are currently abroad, Colombians, Italians and others who are confined to their countries, and I’m afraid that not all of the borders will open at the same time."

The wider economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic is already making itself felt in the professional peloton, with several teams enacting salary cuts or laying off support staff, citing reductions in income from sponsors.

That uncertainty is expected to lead to a stalling of activity in cycling's transfer market, though Arkéa-Samsic are not the only team to announce contract extensions in recent days. Tuttobici reported on Sunday that Romanian Eduard Grosu has signed a contract that will keep him at Nippo–Delko–One Provence in 2021.