Rik Verbrugghe announced as new national road coach by Belgian Cycling

Former professional rider Rik Verbrugghe will be the new national road coach for Belgium, with responsibility for the elite men and under-23 categories, while current national cyclo-cross coach Sven Vanthourenhout will assist Verbrugghe with the U23 category.

Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws had reported on their website on Monday that Axel Merckx was the frontrunner for the job, with Vanthourenhout set to assist him, but it was announced by the national cycling federation, Belgian Cycling, on Wednesday that Verbrugghe would be taking on the role.

Former pro Peter Van Petegem, along with Merckx, had also been confirmed as being on the federation's long list of what Belgian Cycling director Jos Smets had said was 20 names.

The role of national road coach became available at the start of October after Kevin De Weert resigned following this year's UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, to instead take on a new job as WorldTour team Lotto Soudal's performance manager.

As a rider, Verbrugghe raced for the various iterations of the Lotto team from 1996 to the end of 2004. He then rode for Quick-Step for a single season in 2005, and spent the last three years of his career with French team Cofidis.

During his time as a pro, time-trial specialist Verbrugghe took a number of major victories, including the overall 2001 Critérium International title, followed two weeks later by victory at the Flèche Wallonne one-day race.

He also won the Giro d'Italia prologue time trial and a stage at the Tour de France during that 2001 season, and added two more Giro stage wins to his palmarès in 2002 and 2006.

Following his retirement at the end of 2008, Verbrugghe worked as a directeur sportif at Quick-Step and then BMC. He joined the now defunct IAM Cycling team in 2015 as their sports manager, where he stayed until the team disbanded at the end of the 2016 season.

He currently works as a sports director at WorldTour team Bahrain-Merida, and it has yet to be announced whether he may also continue in that role, although it would probably be unlikely.

Verbrugghe and Vanthourenhout will be presented as the new coaches by Belgian Cycling at a press conference in Brussels on Thursday morning, and will start in their new roles on December 1.

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