While always heralded by the team that they're about to join, rarely does a pro rider receive much of a good-bye from the team that they're leaving. But Lotto Soudal are bidding a very fond farewell to Marcel Sieberg, who's leaving to join Bahrain-Merida next season.
Sieberg has spent eight years at the Belgian WorldTour team, mainly in a capacity during that time as the lead-out man for sprinter André Greipel, who's also leaving for pastures new at Fortuneo-Samsic in 2019.
In a clear demonstration of how well-liked 36-year-old Sieberg is on the team, Lotto Soudal has put together a Facebook gallery of some of the German's most memorable moments with the squad, writing on Twitter that they "want to thank 'Sibi' with this beautiful photo album".
Sieberg has so far only taken two wins in his pro career – at the Ronde van Drenthe in 2005 and the GP Jef Scherens in 2006, when he was riding for Continental-level squads Team Lamonta and Wiesenhof Akud, respectively.
But since joining what was then Omega Pharma-Lotto in 2011 – the same year that Greipel joined, with both riders having spent thee years together at HTC-Columbia – Sieberg has ridden every Tour de France in his compatriot's service, with Greipel winning 11 Tour stages during that period.
Could history repeat itself at Bahrain-Merida? Sieberg will be without Greipel for the first time in almost a decade, but he'll instead join forces with young, up-and-coming German sprinter Phil Bauhaus, who joins from Sunweb, with whom the 24-year-old won a stage of this year's Abu Dhabi Tour and a stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné last season.
Bahrain-Merida general manager Brent Copeland is certainly hoping for more of the same from Sieberg.
"Having Marcel as part of Bahrain-Merida means him bringing a wealth of experience, both on and off the bike," said Copeland on the team's website. "His presence is something we're counting on immensely, especially for the lead-out train for Phil.
"Marcel has worked with the best riders in the world and we rate him as one of the best, if not the best, lead-out rider for a sprint train, and we're definitely excited about getting this working relationship going."
For his part, Sieberg knows that a change can sometimes be as good as a rest.
"I'm really looking forward to the next two years," he said. "It's like a new beginning for me. Team Bahrain Merida is a great team with a lot of potential, and I hope that I can help to make the team successful with my abilities."
Besides riders like Sieberg and Greipel moving on, Lotto Soudal have gone through somewhat of an upheaval in the latter part of this season, with general manager Paul De Geyter leaving the team to be replaced by former Phonak and BMC Racing sports director John Lelangue.
But when it comes to Sieberg, Lotto Soudal's loss may prove to be Bahrain-Merida's gain, although Lotto are clearly only too aware of what they'll be missing.
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