Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen and South African Robbie Hunter will join Team RadioShack for the 2011 season, the team announced today. Both riders were facing unemployment after the failure of the Pegasus Sports team to gain a UCI Professional Continental license.
McEwen was widely tipped to be heading to the American team of Johan Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong since the team lost its sprinter Gert Steegmans to Quick Step earlier this month.
McEwen, a three-time Tour de France points classification winner and Hunter, the first South African to win a Tour de France stage, will fit perfectly in the team said Bruyneel.
"I feel sad for the riders and staff of the Pegasus project, but most of the riders deserve to race at the highest level of professional cycling. I am happy to have been able to offer two of the guys that opportunity," Bruyneel said in a press release. "Moreover, we can really use both riders; they are real finishers and winners. They are both very fast and don't need a real sprinter's train to bring them to the last kilometer. They are ‘self-sufficient' and will also be a wealth of knowledge for our young riders."
McEwen was relieved to secure a contract for what he said will be his final season in the peloton, and said RadioShack was his first choice.
"Johan Bruyneel offered me the environment I was looking for. I am happy and grateful. I still know and believe that I am one of the fastest sprinters in the world," McEwen said. "The young guys like Cavendish, Farrar or Greipel are tough to beat but I know that I am still amongst that group of elite sprinters.
"I still have a lot to offer. I just don't want to ride one more year just to ride along in the bunch. I want to perform well and go away on a high."
Hunter was also understandably delighted to be signed with the team, and Bruyneel revealed that the team had tried to sign him in 2009. Hunter said that continuing with Pegasus Sports as a Continental team was not an "The Australians really had a nice project. I was looking forward to being part of their Team, but for me it was not an option to race on a continental team. I am still too ambitious.
"Team RadioShack suits me very well. I've proved in the past that I have no problem sacrificing my chances for another rider as I did last year for Tylar Farrar. Also in 2011 the Team can count on me and I know that they will give me the opportunity to do my own sprints, too."
With McEwen at 38 years of age and Hunter at 33, the two are some of the older riders on the team, but with Armstrong and Chris Horner at 39, Levi Leipheimer and Jason McCartney at 37, the team has plenty of contemporaries.
"Robbie McEwen is not the youngest guy in the peloton, but in our team we know exactly what riders are capable of at a certain age," said Bruyneel. "Robbie proved this year that he is still able to win ProTour races. Moreover I count on him to help our very young talented riders in the team find their way in the peloton."
The RadioShack 2011 team:
Lance Armstrong (USA)
Fumiyuki Beppu (Japan)
Sam Bewley (New Zealand)
Jani Brajkovic (Slovenia)
Matthew Busche (USA)
Manuel Cardoso (Portugal)
Philip Deignan (Ireland)
Ben Hermans (Belgium)
Chris Horner (USA)
Robbie Hunter (South Africia)
Markel Irizar (Spain)
Ben King (USA)
Andreas Klöden (Germany)
Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland)
Levi Leipheimer (USA)
Geoffroy Lequatre (France)
Tiago Machado (Portugal)
Jason McCartney (USA)
Robbie McEwen (Australia)
Dmitriy Muravyev (Kazakhstan)
Nélson Oliveira (Portugal)
Sérgio Paulinho (Portugal)
Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine)
Gregory Rast (Switzerland)
Sébastien Rosseler (Belgium)
Ivan Rovny (Russia)
Jesse Sergent (New Zealand)
Bjørn Selander (USA
Haimar Zubeldia (Spain)
Directors: Johan Bruyneel (Belgium), José Azevedo (Portugal), Dirk Demol (Belgium), Viatcheslav Ekimov (Russia) and Alain Gallopin (France).
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