UAE Team Emirates have announced the signing of under-23 time trial world champion Mikkel Bjerg to a three-year contract. The 20-year-old Dane's contract mirrors that of recently signed American Brandon McNulty.
Team manager Joxean Matxin called Bjerg "one of the hottest prospects in the world when it comes to the time trial".
"To have him along with McNulty, they will both be a real force in that discipline. It's also important to point out how close he has come in his attempts to break the World Hour Record, and to do that at such a young age is extremely impressive," Matxin said. "He is not only a great time trial rider: he can become a very versatile cyclist, strong on the flat and on the cobbles and can also do well on the shorter climbs."
Bjerg has been with Axel Merckx's Hagens Berman Axeon squad for the past two seasons, during which he has won the overall classification at Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux and the Rabobank Dorpenomloop Rucphen, in addition to the U23 world title. Before that, he raced with the Continental squad Giant-Castelli and won his first U23 time trial rainbow jersey.
Stepping up to the WorldTour is a big decision for a young rider, but Bjerg will see some familiar faces from his Hagens Berman team, like Jasper Philipsen, and Rui and Ivo Oliveira.
"I opted for UAE Team Emirates because it is a team showing great interest in the development of young riders. It's really exciting to be part of a WorldTour team characterised by a base of experienced riders, along with some of the best talents of the new generation, including Philipsen, [Tadej] Pogačar, McNulty and [Andres] Ardila. In my current team, Hagens Berman Axeon, young riders work together and motivate each other, and I think it will be interesting to do it next season with UAE.
"I'm more than excited for this step in my career. In the last two years I have had the opportunity to grow up in a perfect environment, which led me to the point I'm finally at now – joining the WorldTour. I'm really excited to be stepping up and competing at this level."
Trek-Segafredo bring two trainees to Tour of Utah
Trek-Segafredo have announced that they'll be bringing two new riders, Juan Pedro López and Nicolas Debeaumarché, to the Larry H Miller Tour of Utah this month.
López, 22, comes from Trek-Segafredo's feeder team Kometa Cycling Team, coming off a recent stage victory at the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta Mont Blanc.
"When they told me I'd get the chance to be a stagiaire with Trek-Segafredo, I could barely believe it," Lopez said in a team press release. "To be honest, I still need to pinch myself when I think about it because wearing the jersey of a WorldTour team is like a dream come true. I hope to help the team in whatever they ask me to do. I think my ambitions are not very different from what other stagiaires in the WorldTour are aiming for: if I can show myself worthy and try to secure a place in the team for the years to come, I will definitely fight for that."
Debeaumarché, 21, won a stage at this year's Tour du Loir et Cher. The Frenchman comes from the same development squad as Julian Bernard – the SCO Dijon-Team Materiel-velo.com.
"It's an honour, and I'm very proud to ride for Trek-Segafredo in the coming months. I'm really excited about this opportunity to measure myself against the pros. I cannot wait to put on the jersey and give it my all to help realise the team's goals. And, last but not least, I would like to thank everybody who has played a role in making this happen," Debeaumarché said.
The pair will be joined by Niklas Eg, Kiel Reijnen and Peter Stetina at the Tour of Utah.
Astana sign Kazakh rider Vadim Pronskiy
The Astana team has signed neo-pro Vadim Pronskiy as a trainee for the remainder of this season and as a neo-pro for 2020. Pronskiy is slated to race a few one-day events in Italy and the Tour of Almaty.
"I'm so happy that Astana Pro Team saw my potential and believed in me. In my opinion, Astana is one of the strongest teams in the WorldTour, and this invitation is a great honour," the Kazakh rider said. "I understand that, coming in at this high level, I have to learn a lot, I have to change myself, I have to work much more than I did it before. And I'm ready for that. This is a big chance for me as an athlete, and I'll do my best to justify the trust put in me. I want to thank the management of Astana Pro Team and its general partner Samruk-Kazyna for this chance."
Pronskiy won the general classification of the 2018 Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta Mont Blanc and this year finished third overall at the Tour de Langkawi, as well as winning the youth classification at the Tour de l'Ain and the Tour of Austria.
Team manager Alexandr Vinokurov said that the team has been watching Pronskiy's progress and see potential in him.
"Last year he impressed us with his big victory at the Giro Valle d'Aosta, but we decided to give him some more time for development, since he is still very young. We decided to bring Vadim up to a professional level step-by-step, providing him some possibilities to race together with our team as a trainee.
"I'm sure it'll be a good experience for him ahead of a huge step up to WorldTour level. Also, during his time as a trainee, he will have a chance to prepare for the World Championships. And, from next year, we're bringing him to Astana Pro Team as a neo-pro rider. I'm sure that, on our team, Vadim will meet all he needs for a qualitative development."
CCC Team sign neo-pro Zimmermann
General Manager Jim Ochowicz will give Zimmermann his debut as a trainee at the Tour of Slovakia in September.
"Georg has already shown great talent and potential – most recently by winning the 'king of the mountains' jersey at the Tour of Austria, where he raced against our riders, and with victories at the Trofeo Piva and the Coppa della Pace this year," Ochowicz said. "By bringing Georg on as a stagiaire for the rest of the year, we hope to accelerate his development and give him the chance to see how a WorldTour team operates before he makes the important step in his career as a neo professional."
Zimmermann raced with the Team Felbermayr-Simplon Wels Continental squad after graduating from the junior ranks, moving to the Tirol Team for the past two years. In addition to his two wins this season, he claimed a stage at the Giro della Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia last season.
"Georg has already raced against WorldTour teams in the past and has demonstrated maturity beyond his 21 years of age. We believe he has a bright future ahead of him at CCC Team, and with Germany a key market for our title sponsor CCC, and Reno, we are excited to add another German rider to our roster."
Zimmermann called the move to the WorldTour "a dream come true".
"Every cyclist dreams of being able to race at the highest level of sport, so to have that come true is a special feeling. I'm excited to see how the team operates, and to race and train in a professional environment, with the best coaches and equipment. It will be a good opportunity for me as a stagiaire this year before I officially join the team for the 2020 season," Zimmermann said.
"My goal is to keep improving as a cyclist. Together, with the team, I want to learn how to get the best out of myself and support the team as much as I can. I think I'm well suited to one-day races but, really, I will just be looking to gain as much experience as possible and see how I develop."