Keukeleire leaves Orica-Scott for Lotto Soudal

Jens Keukeleire will leave Orica-Scott to join Lotto Soudal next season, with the Belgian team announcing on Friday the signing of the 28-year-old on a two-year deal.

Keukeleire started his career at Cofidis but has spent the last six years at the Australian Orica-Scott team, over the course of which he has steadily grown in stature as a spring Classics rider.

This year he won the Baloise Belgium Tour and finished second at Gent-Wevelgem, and last year he won a stage at the Vuelta a España, while he also has top 10 finishes to his name at Paris-Roubaix, E3 Harelbeke, and Dwars door Vlaanderen.

"I wasn't looking for a new team, but half-way through the season I had a chat with [Lotto Soudal manager] Marc Sergeant and so the ball started rolling. I was still happy at Orica-Scott, but the fact that Lotto Soudal is a Belgian team made me decide to change team," said Keukeleire.

"The past seasons I often rode with the national team and being surrounded with fellow Belgians, both riders and staff, creates a specific atmosphere. I already have a bond with several riders and staff members of Lotto Soudal, so I am very much looking forward to be part of this team. Especially to be working together for the spring races. The past seasons, Orica-Scott focused more and more on the Spring Classics too, but you can't compare it to how a Belgian team deals with it.

"It's also a nice point in my career to move to another team. I have been making progress every year and now I'm approaching my top. At Orica-Scott there are many GC riders, for whom I had to work in stage races, at Lotto Soudal I will get more freedom in those races.

"Next season I want to set a new step forward. I want to be even stronger in the one-day races so I am fresh in the finale and can battle for victory. Last year, I won a stage at La Vuelta and it is definitely my ambition to win another stage in a Grand Tour. I will also gladly help the team in bunch sprints. This year I won the Baloise Belgium Tour and that victory proves that I'm an all-rounder. I won that race thanks to a good time trial, a third place in the Ardennes stage and by picking up bonus seconds in the last stage. That's a performance I would like to repeat."

While Keukeleire is on his way out, Orica-Scott have already bolstered their Classics arsenal by signing Matteo Trentin from Quick-Step Floors. The Italian has been handed a leading role, with 26-year-old Luke Durbridge hoping to build on an impressive 2017 spring.

At Lotto Soudal, Keukeleire brings much-needed reinforcements and rejuvenation. After a lacklustre 2017 Classics campaign, the Belgian team have lost Jurgen Roelandts to BMC and Tony Gallopin to AG2R-La Mondiale.

"Jens set some very good performances the past years at Orica-Scott, but in a Belgian team he will even feel better," said Sergeant. "I see Jens growing every year. He turns 29 later this year, but is still making progress. At Orica he always was a team player and never the main leader. He was at peace with that role, but that will be different at our team.

"Jens is a rider who can cope with a lot of race days, has a big engine and is rarely injured. He races all year long and performs very consistently, with the necessary outstanding performances. In the spring we can definitely use the reinforcement from Jens. A wide range of one-day races suits him. I saw him performing strongly at Clásica San Sebastián, working for his teammates. Jens is fast when he gets to the finish with a small group and he can play a role in our sprint train. Jens will be an asset to our team in many ways. He is a team player, but at Lotto Soudal he will also get the chance to further develop himself and to achieve personal goals."

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