Dimension Data have confirmed their first three signings for the 2017 season, with Ben King, Scott Thwaites and Lachlan Morton all due to ride for the them next season. In contrast to recent seasons, the team have been decidedly quiet on the transfer market since it opened in August, but the South African-based squad hopes that the three new additions will add more depth to their line-up.
King and Morton will look to bolster the climbing side of the team, with the former also working as a mentor for the younger riders, while Thwaites will form part of the Classics squad.
"Ben King had an incredible La Vuelta, showing great depth and consistency, and we see Ben taking a leadership role in mentoring and leading our climber group of riders,” said team manager Doug Ryder. “Key to that group is Lachlan Morton, who we believe can shine in the high mountains in stage races.
"In the Classics this season we were always looking for an additional strong rider to give us that extra kick, and we are really pleased Scott Thwaites will join our African team."
King, who turned professional with RadioShack in 2011, joins the team after three seasons with Cannondale-Drapac. The 27-year-old is a former US national champion but has spent much of his time as a worker for team leaders, while occasionally taking his opportunities in breakaways.
King broke his fibula during a training crash in January and had to delay the start to his season until the end of March. Two months after his comeback, he went on to take his second professional victory with a stage win at the Tour of California. The move to Dimension Data links him up with former teammates Tyler Farrar and Nathan Haas.
"Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka feels like the perfect environment to grow as an athlete and as a person," King said. "The team races with guts and everyone gets opportunities. I love to race my bike for the pleasure and beauty of it, the lifestyle it encourages, and the people and places I get to build relationships with through it. However, as I’ve matured as a rider, I’ve found that motivation and drive hinge more on 'why' than on 'what' we do. Promoting and professionally representing Qhubeka gives my involvement in cycling another higher purpose and fills me with pride."
Morton was also a teammate of King's at the Garmin-Sharp team in 2014, but the 24-year-old has spent the last two years racing at Continental level with the Jelly Belly-Maxxis team. Morton came close to retiring from the sport several years ago but has seemingly found a new lease on life following a break from the top level. A stage win and the overall classification at the Tour of the Gila crowned a strong first half of the season for Morton. He backed it up with two stages and the race victory at the Tour of Utah last month.
Thwaites will add to the team’s Classics squad, joining riders such as Edvald Boasson Hagen and Tyler Farrar. Thwaites turned professional in 2013, when the NetApp team merged with the Continental outfit Endura, and has been with the team ever since. In 2016, riding in the colours of Bora-Argon 18, he has enjoyed his best season to date, taking top 10 finishes at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Le Samyn and Dwars door Vlaanderen, although he is yet to take his first professional victory. As well as furthering his career, Thwaites says that he is looking forward to working with the Qhubeka charity next season.
"The team has a great rider support network which will help me make small gains in my performance which I hope will translate into results," Thwaites said. "Having been brought up with a privileged life in the UK, I took things like getting good education, access to sport and available transport for granted. Seeing the plight of African children who are giving up on their education, as the journey by foot to school is too arduous, is very saddening.
"By supporting the Qhubeka project and enabling these children to get to school by bike, stay in education for longer and follow their dreams, as I have mine, is a great honour."
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