Qhubeka Assos continue to build 2021 squad with Clarke, Claeys, Frankiny

Qhubeka Assos have unveiled a trio of new signings for the 2021 season as the South African team continue the task of completing their roster days after announcing that they would continue racing, having been under threat of extinction for months.

Simon Clarke signs from EF Pro Cycling, Dimitri Claeys joins from Cofidis, and Kilian Frankiny makes the move from Groupama-FDJ, bringing their confirmed riders from seven to 10. 

The signings come a day after European champion Giacomo Nizzolo confirmed his stay at the squad, having signed a new contract over the weekend.

Last week, Cyclingnews broke the news of the team's talks with Clarke, with the 34-year-old Australian joining after four years spent at EF. The versatile veteran has two stages and the mountains classification at the Vuelta a España on his palmarès and won the Royal Bernard Drôme Classic back in March.

"I'm really thrilled to be taking on a new challenge with Team Qhubeka Assos. In one way, this is a sort of homecoming in that my father is South African and I've always felt some sort of deeper interest and pull towards the team," Clarke said.

"2020 has been a strange and difficult year for everyone but a highlight without doubt was my victory at Royal Bernard Drôme on a day in really tough conditions.

"I really look forward to bringing those capabilities, as well as my leadership qualities, into the team and look forward to making it a very special year for us all. There's already a strong core group in place and no doubt with further additions to come we'll be competitive wherever we race."

Claeys, 33, has spent the past four seasons with Cofidis, winning the 4 Days of Dunkirk in 2018 and the Famenne Ardenne Classic last season. He was sixth at the Tour of Flanders. The Belgian should form key part of the team's Classics squad as well as aiding Nizzolo in the sprints.

"I am very honoured to ride for Team Qhubeka Assos next season," he said. "2020 was a strange season for all of us but my performance at Flanders, in particular, was very pleasing for me and I look forward to reproducing more performances like that next season.

"This team has a very special history, over a relatively short period of time, which I now look forward to not only add to but to play a part in creating the next chapter of that journey."

Finally, Frankiny – a winner of the Under 23 Giro della Valle d'Aosta in 2016 – moves on from Groupama-FDJ after three seasons. The 26-year-old Swiss rider competed at the Giro d'Italia this season, showing his climbing skills with a fourth place at Roccaraso and fifth at Madonna di Campiglio.

"I'm very excited to start 2021 with my new team, Team Qhubeka Assos. I can't wait to find out more about the charity as I think it's a great thing to distribute bicycles to help," he said.

"I'm really looking forward to racing; a new challenge and adventures with a team that has set itself some lofty goals for the season ahead. It's also very nice to have two Swiss brands on board in Assos and BMC. I know these brands already and they are exceptional, and with me being Swiss I'm really excited to go back to these two brands.

"I hope to, and will, give my absolute very best to fulfil the goals of the team to achieve good results and to perform at my very best in order for us to be a great team in 2021."

The trio join Nizzolo as thus-far confirmed riders at the team for next season. Other riders on the squad include Domenico Pozzovivo, Dylan Sunderland, Michael Gogl, Victor Campenaerts, Max Walscheid and Andreas Stokbro, who already had contracts with the team for 2021.

Qhubeka Assos will continue to fill out the team in the coming days and weeks, though it's as yet unknown whether they will remain in the WorldTour or drop down to ProTeam level, given their reported €8 million budget.

On Monday, team directeur sportif Lars Michaelsen told Cyclingnews that he has "a list of around 100 names" that the team are looking at. Italian climber Fabio Aru has been among the riders linked with the team after leaving UAE Team Emirates, while Jay Thomson, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, and Nic Dlamini are all set to stay after being offered contract extensions.

A number of the team's top riders have already signed elsewhere, though, with Ben O'Connor moving to AG2R Citröen, Michael Valgren joining EF Pro Cycling, Edvald Boasson Hagen signing with Total Direct Energie, and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier moving to Trek-Segafredo.


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