The 28-year-old, who won both Amstel Gold Race and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2018, joins EF Pro Cycling as the squad looks to bolster their one-day and Classics squad for next season.
Valgren has long been touted as a rider capable of winning almost any one day Spring Classics on the calendar but his last two seasons have been blighted by illness and bad luck. He has failed to win a race since leaving Astana in 2018 but has put in a number of impressive displays, including sixth behind winner and teammate Mads Pedersen in the 2019 World Championships road race in Harrogate.
With sponsor NTT set to leave the sport at the end of this year and the team’s future looking bleak, Valgren became one of the most sought after riders in the peloton with Team Ineos and Israel Start-Up Nation both linked to the him.
However, Jonathan Vaughters’ squad won the race for the Danish rider’s signature and the 2021 season offers Valgren a completely fresh start and an environment and culture in which he could restart his career.
The EF Pro Cycling Classics squad already includes the 2019 Tour of Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol, Sebastian Langeveld, Moreno Hofland and Jens Keukeleire. With Sep Vanmarcke leaving the team for Israel Start-Up Nation, Valgren has a central place within the core of an already established group.
Vaughters welcomed the Dane to the team and hopes to harness the rider’s raw ability in major races, especially the Spring Classics.
“Michael has a big motor and is a true talent. He is exceptional at the Classics and very valuable to his team in stage races. I am excited to see what he brings to our crew. He gives us another card to play in the cobbles when things get crazy — which they always do.”
Valgren said he's already been talking to the Danes already on the EF roster and added that the team looks like a fun squad to be part of.
“I'm most excited about moving to EF to start working with all the people there," he said. "Obviously, I've been talking to Matti Breschel and Magnus Cort as fellow Danes. They both said it was an awesome team and I look forward to being a part of that. From the outside, EF looks like a super fun team. And I really can't wait to be a part of it. I think I will fit right in.”
“My main strength as a rider, I believe, is my endurance and that I'm really able to read the race pretty well. So I think that's a very good combination, especially in the one-day races. The longer the race gets, the better I get and I read the riders in the race. That's one of my greatest qualities on the bike."
Valgren’s 2021 race programme is far from being finalized but given his pedigree and background, it’s highly likely that he will race across a number of the spring Classics. The 28-year-old is set on winning one race in particular in the future; the Tour of Flanders.
“It's a special race. It's so intense, it's long and hard, but somehow it just goes by so fast. I've always been pretty good there,” explained Valgren, who finished fourth in the Tour of Flanders in 2018.
“But the combination of the course, the atmosphere, the history around it, I think it just creates these really great battles in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and that's why I really love it.”
Valgren came through the ranks via Team Cult Energy in 2013, a team that included Magnus Cort. He then joined Tinkoff Saxo in 2014 and spent three years on the squad before moving to Astana in 2017. He won the Under 23 version of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2012 and 2013 before his breakout season in the WorldTour in 2018.
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