The Fortuneo Vital Concept team has confirmed it has signed Belgian sprinter Gianni Meersman for 2017, boosting the roster of the French Professional Continental team. He is the third new signing for 2017 and will join Arnold Jeannesson and Laurent Pichon.
The team had a successful Tour de France with young British sprinter Dan McLay finishing in the top ten on four stages and taking a close third place behind Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel on stage six.
30-year-old Meersman has opted to move on from the Etixx-QuickStep team and agreed to a one-year contract. The Belgian is riding the Vuelta a Espana and has won stages in Baiona and Lugo during the first week of racing. Meersman turned professional with the Discovery Channel team in 2006 before a four-year spell at FDJ. He returns to a French team after four years with Patrick Lefevere’s squad.
"The team quickly showed an interest in me and that impressed me," Meersman said of his new team for 2017.
"There is a balance between my expectations and the team's plans. I'd been on contact Emmanuel Hubert for some time, I'd given him my word, so my two victories in the Vuelta won't change anything. This is a competitive team where I can have the freedom to express myself in some events. The race programme is very interesting and I look forward to riding the Coupe de France races and I hope the Tour de France too. The team's management made it clear they believe in me. It's very important to have the confidence of the staff and my teammates to get results."
Despite being Flemish, Meersman is not concerned about speaking French with his new teammates.
"I'm back at a French team after being at FDJ. Back then I didn't speak a word of French but things are a lot better now. My wife is a French teacher and so if I don't understand things, I can always ask her…"
The Fortuneo Vital Concept team has grown and developed gradually in recent years under the management of Emmanuel Hubert. The team is currently placed 25th in the UCI rankings.
"The arrival of Gianni is very good news for the team," Hubert said. "We've got an experienced racer with numerous wins in the WorldTour. We're going in the right direction and his record speaks for itself: winning two stages in the Vuelta is not easy and he also won stages at the Tour de Romandie and the Volta a Catalunya. We happy to welcome Gianni to the team. He had lots of offers but he preferred our project, this means that he is still very motivated to win races. With us, he knows that he will be the leader in several races that he likes. We needed a signing like him."