The MTN-Qhubeka team is stepping up its activity in the cycling transfer market with the South African team looking to fill eight rider spots on its 22-rider roster for the 2015 season and land three major names.The team has confirmed it will use Cervelo bikes in 2015, instead of current bike sponsor Trek.
Interim general manager Brian Smith, who has been given the task of rebuilding the team, has confirmed to Cyclingnews that MTN-Qhubeka will attempt to sign three marquee riders. The team has held talks with Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen but Smith revealed that the Norwegian hopes to remain at WorldTour level in 2015.
“We’re going to add another eight riders to the fourteen that we have already contracted for next year. I’m looking for experienced riders because some of the riders we have lack that,” Smith told Cyclingnews.
“Among those eight we’re looking at making three marquee signings who can deliver in the cobbled classics and the hilly classics. We’re not looking for big sprinters or GC guys. We want to win races. There’s no sense in going into a three-week Tour to try and protect one rider in the hope of finishing in the top ten. So we’ll go for stages and we’ll race. It’s all about racing.”
Boasson Hagen had appeared to be one of the team’s main targets for next year and Smith also confirmed that he had approached the Norwegian’s teammate, Geraint Thomas. However the Welshman had already penned a two-year extension with Team Sky.
“I spoke to both Edvald and his agent and they’re both interested but I get a general sense that many riders who are already at WorldTour level want to stay WorldTour," Smith explained.
"It’s like the Carlos Sastre and Thor Hushovd situation at Cervelo: are they going to take the opportunity to drop down a level to better themselves? So many people don’t want that, they want to stay WorldTour. That could be a sticking point with some of the riders.”
“Again, I’m talking to a few big riders that are available but maybe they don’t have vision as I have.”
“The three marquee riders I’m talking to, I’m deep in conversation with. I’ve not talked to Boasson Hagen for three weeks. I got the impression that he was really keen and I think we could have done a lot of good work with him but I think he wants to stay WorldTour. I think he needs to get back to what he was doing before in trying to win stages. It’s not about the money because we have money, it’s about riders wanting to stay at the WorldTour level.”
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