Smukulis leaves Astana
The Latvian rider, 29, only signed for Astana last winter, having been with Katusha since 2012. He has won the national time trial title every year since 2011 and is currently also national road race champion. His only other professional win was a stage at the Volta a Catalunya in 2011.
Paladin and Vekemans to Ale Cipollini Galassia
Soraya Paladin and Anisha Vekemans will strengthen the Ale Cipollini Galassia team in 2017. The Italian womens' team announced the signings on Wednesday.
Paladin, 23, has been with the Top Girls Fassa Bortolo team since turning pro in 2012. She is still looking for her first victory, but brought in a number of top ten finishes this season. "Ready for this new adventure @CipolliniTeam thanks for your trust and thank @asdtopgirls for these years together," she tweeted.
Vekemans, 25, was with the Lotto-Soudal Ladies team for three years. This year she finished the road race in the Rio Olympics and has ridden in the World road championships the last two years.
"We are delighted to welcome these two young athletes," said team president Alessia Piccolo. "Both are motivated and want to win."
Seven "villages of the Ronde" for next three years
Seven cities and towns have won the honour of being a 'village of the Ronde' in the Tour of Flanders for the next three years. The lucky winners along the race's new route are Sint-Niklaas, Hamme-Zogge, Berlare, Aalst, Erpe-Mere, Herzele and Zottegem.
The 101st edition of the race, to be held April 2, 2017, will start in Antwerp instead of Bruges. "A new start also means a new course towards the Flemish Ardennes," the organizers said on Wednesday.
Usually only one community wins the title, but race organizers decided to grant it to these seven for the next three years, as the anchor of the new race route.
"In recent weeks and months there was press speculation as to how the Ronde would pass from Antwerp towards Oudenaarde," race director Wim van Herreweghe said, according to Het Nieuwsblad. "There were several options and there we have chosen a course through cities and towns that really breathe racing."
Two Slovenians leave Adria Mobil for Bahrain-Merida
David Per and Domen Novak are leaving Adria Mobil Cycling for Bahrain-Merida, the Adria Mobil team has said. The new Bahrain team has not yet confirmed the signings.
Per, 21, has been with the Continental team for three seasons. This year he won the Ronde von Vlaanderen Beloften, and had numerous other top 10 finishes. He also rode the under 23 road race at the World Championships. Novak, 21, can also point to a number of top ten finishes this season.
Team coach Bostjan Mervar called the two "amazing young cyclists, in fact we wanted to build our future team around them." He anticipated that they would stay with the team another two or three years, but "Nevertheless I'm still glad that they took the offer from Bahrain and decided for a change, it's not that easy to get into a first league team. Sometimes you only have one opportunity like this in your lifetime."