Etixx-Quickstep heads into Paris-Tours, the final race before the UCI Road World Championships, with a powerful team full of potential winners. Matteo Trentin, the 2015 winner of the race, is joined by Tom Boonen and Fernando Gaviria in the team for the 252.5km race on Sunday.
Paris-Tours has in its history a string of high-profile champions, including Philippe Gilbert, Oscar Freire, and Erik Zabel. Trentin's win last year was the first for Patrick Lefevere's team since Richard Virenque won with Domo-Farm Frites in 2001. Boonen was second to Gilbert in 2009.
In addition to Trentin, Boonen and fast man Gaviria, the team will be represented by Nikolas Maes, Gianni Meersman, Maximiliano Richeze, Fabio Sabatini and Zdenek Stybar.
AG2R La Mondiale for World Championship team time trial
The French squad AG2R La Mondiale will be one of the WorldTour teams to compete in the UCI Road World Championship team time trial on Sunday, and is using it to try to improve the team's record in the discipline.
There was a threat of a boycott by the WorldTour teams, but in the end ten teams opted to compete - last year's top eight finishers plus AG2R and Katusha.
Vincent Lavenu explains why they chose to send a team: "At the end of the season, it would have been easy to renounce riding this race. However, we are real competitors and we are ready to take up this challenge. Honestly, the team time trial is our weakness and this event represents a great opportunity to improve our skills. We will gain in experience, which is interesting for the next season."
The team will be represented by Christophe Riblon, Gediminas Bagdonas, Ben Gastauer, Hugo Houle, Alexis Gougeard and Patrick Gretsch, all of whom competed in the TTT at the Eneco Tour, where they placed 18th over a 20.9km course. The Worlds course is almost twice as long.
"This race is 40km long and it requires real team cohesion," Lavenu said. "That is why we estimated it was necessary to prepare our roster in advance. Riders are about to live an entire week together so I hope this preliminary work will bear fruits.
Chris Butler joins Caja Rural - Seguros RGA
The Caja Rural - Seguros RGA squad announced today that it has signed Chris Butler to a two-year contract. The 28-year-old will be the first American to race for the Spanish team.
"I'm very excited to take this step with Caja Rural - Seguros RGA and pay back everyone who has invested in my career," Butler said. "Spanish is my strongest second language and I really hope to continue to improve that. I'm also familiar with Fuji Bikes and I know the bike plays an important role in the team's success.
"Personally, I'm going to stay very focused on continuing to improve and live up to the expectations that so many believe I can accomplish in some of the biggest races in the world. I really want to integrate with the team on and off the bike. There are a lot of proven winners on this team and I think that we will have someone to go for that role in every race. Therefore, I want to be super reliable year round to help my teammates".
Butler raced in 2011 at the WorldTour level with BMC, dropping out of the Giro d'Italia with a fractured pelvis. He spent the next two seasons racing with the Champion System team before dropping back to the Continental level with Hincapie, SmartStop and this year Cycling Academy.
Alexey Tsatevich to Gazprom – RusVelo
Russian Alexey Tsatevich has signed a one-year contract with Gazprom – RusVelo and an option for one further season, the team announced today
"Alexey is 27 and he is a very experienced rider. Last five seasons he spent in the World Tour. We know him and his strengths well, so Gazprom – RusVelo will give him a chance to make a big move on hilly races," team general manager Renat Khamuidulin said. "Alexey has a great potential, we will do everything to develop him as a rider."
Tsatevich comes to the team after five years with Team Katusha, with which he scored three victories including a stage of the Volta a Catalunya.
"It was a great season for Gazprom – RusVelo and it's obvious that they made a huge step up. I want to be a part of this improvements and do everything that I can to help the team reach it's goals. I am eager to show solid results on one-day races and be a part of the team's success."
Simone Antonini renews with Wanty-Groupe Gobert
The Wanty-Groupe Gobert team has announced a contract extension for Simone Antonini. The 25-year-old Italian started his professional career with the team in 2015.
"I am happy with the confidence they have in me. In this team I can continue to develop myself as a rider," Antonini said. "We have a fantastic race program with wildcards for all major WorldTour Spring classics. All races between Omloop and Paris-Roubaix suit me well."
Antonini joins Jérôme Baugnies, Thomas Degand, Kenny Dehaes, Tom Devriendt, Fabien Doubey, Wesley Kreder, Guillaume Levarlet, Guillaume Martin, Mark McNally, Xandro Meurisse, Robin Stenuit, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, and Kevin Van Melsen in the current line-up for the 2017 team.