The Lotto Soudal Ladies team has added 37-year-old Gran Fondo world champion Marie Dessart to its roster for 2019, the team has reported.
The Belgian won the 35-39 age category at the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Varese, Italy, in September.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to still get at my age," Dessart said on the team's website, "and a dream come true. The past two to three years, I've got some good results in amateur races, but I thought it was too late to ever ride for an elite team. But suddenly it has become a reality."
The former triathlete has only concentrated on cycling in the past five years, and knows that joining one of the world's best women's teams will be a challenge.
"I've participated in several Ironman triathlons, and was very good at cycling, but during the run my opponents used to overtake me, which was why I decided to focus on cycling," said Dessart.
“I love the mountains and that’s why I love riding Gran Fondos," she continued. "I love the physical effort on a long climb, and I also have the body of a climber. And you get to ride through beautiful landscapes. The mountains are my favourite surroundings to race and train in.
"Lotto Soudal haven't engaged me to ride flat races," Dessart explained, and thanked former pro Ludivine Henrion for the introduction to the Belgian women's team. "I'll be riding hilly races and climbing races of one or more days. It'll be a big change for me as I'll be part of a professional team with professional staff, and I'm curious to see how much influence that will have on me.
"I'm stepping into the unknown and it'll be a big adventure, but I want to prove that I'm worth the confidence that Lotto Soudal has put in me, and I hope to make progress all year long.
"It'll be an adventure that will require a different way of life," she said, "but I really want to get the maximum out of my dream."