Tvetcov signs with Androni Giocattoli for 2015

Serghei Tvetcov, third overall this year at the USA Pro Challenge, has signed a two-year deal with Italian ProContinental team Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela. The 25-year-old from Moldova has ridden at Continental level with Jelly Belly-Maxxis for the past two seasons, after moving to the US in 2011.

“After the USA Pro Challenge I had a couple of offers,” Tvetcov told Cyclingnews from Moldova, where he is spending time with family during the off-season. “In the end, me and my agent Baden Cooke decided Androni is going to be the best team for developing in Europe. This team has a great race program and organization.”

Over the past four years, the team has claimed multiple stages in the Giro d'Italia, Tirreno-Adriatico, Coppi e Bartali, Tour de Langkawi, Giro del Trentino and Giro di Toscana. Franco Pellizotti, who has reportedly agreed to ride with Androni Giocattoli for another season, finished second on the Zoncolan stage of the Giro d'Italia this year and was 12th overall while riding for the team.

Tvetcov, a talented all-rounder who can time trial, sprint and climb, did have offers from WorldTour teams, but he chose Androni because he wanted to progress slowly, step by step. The team is one of the best ProContinental squads in the world, he said, and he's ready to take on a full season at the next level.

“I met already director sportif Giovanni Elenna and president Gianni Savio during the UCI World Championships in Ponferrada,” he said. “I'm looking forward to working with that great crew.”

Tvetcov will likely keep the US as his home base, but he will live in Italy during the season next year. He has “a little bit” of experience speaking Italian, he said, but said that he'll need to “recover” those skills when training camps start this winter.

After a successful first year with Jelly Belly in 2013, Tvetcov has been stepping onto podiums throughout North America this season. He won the time trial at the Tour of the Gila and finished 12th during the Folsom time trial at the Tour of California a week later. Tvetcov hit the deck hard during stage 1 at the Tour de Beauce in June, but he hung on to finish third overall in the Canadian UCI 2.2 race.

In July, Tvetcov won the overall at the Cascade Cycling Classic for the second year in a row on the strength of stage wins in the time trial and criterium. He appeared to be in prime form for the two US UCI stage races in August, and he came into Colorado looking for a good result after finishing in the top 10 three times at the Tour of Utah.

“At the Tour of Utah I just tried to stay with the big guys,” Tvetcov told Cyclingnews at the time. “I was in the main group, but the mountains there were too steep for me. I just was dropped, but I was dropped from a select group of 15. So I thought, 'Alright, Colorado will be better for me.'”

Colorado's longer climbs with more gradual grades were indeed better for Tvetcov. He finished outside the top 10 only once at the USA Pro Challenge, during the opening-day circuit race in Aspen.

Following stage 1, he was ninth during the controversial and muddy stage 2 run into Crested Butte, third at the summit finish on the top of Monarch Mountain, third again in the field sprint at the end of the circuit race in Colorado Springs, seventh during the stage from Woodland Park to Breckenridge, third again during the Vail time trial, and fourth in the sprint finish at the end of the final stage in Denver.

His third-place overall result in Colorado is one of the few times a rider from a Continental team has finished on the final podium in a US UCI 2.HC or 2.1 race. The result followed a shift in focus by Tvetcov and Jelly Belly from infiltrating daily breakaways to competing for the general classification.

“When I passed the first stage in Colorado without time losses, Matt Rice and Danny Van Haute told me, 'Ok, Serghei, as a team we have a chance to move you now for top 10 in the GC.' And at the end we did even better,” he said.

Tvetcov finished his season with Jelly Belly by placing sixth overall at the Tour of Alberta after narrowly missing the opening time trial win to Giant-Shimano's Tom Dumoulin. He represented Romania at the world championships in Spain after switching his citizenship this year, and he was 12th at the UCI 1.1 Tour of Almaty in Kazakhstan earlier this month.

It's a season that has paid off with a spot on a team that Tvetcov said he first heard about while watching TV as a 15-year-old. “When I got the opportunity to race for them, I was very excited and glad to achieve part of my childhood dreams to be on a high level in the sport.”

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