UCI confirms Cepeda and Piccolo transfer to EF Education as Morton and Howes step away from WorldTour racing

Cepeda Piccolo Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli SprintCyclingAgency
Jefferson Cepeda and Andrea Piccolo are making a double move from Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli to EF Education-EasyPost (Image credit: SprintCyclingAgency)

EF Education-EasyPost have yet to announce any signings during the August transfer window, but the UCI's website appears to have done it for them.

Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli riders Jefferson Alexander Cepeda and Andrea Piccolo have been heavily linked with mid-season moves to the American squad and now appear on the American WorldTour team's squad list at uci.org.

Androni boss Gianni Savio confirmed that Piccolo would be leaving in an interview with Bici.pro on August 1, while five days earlier, the Vuelta a Burgos website announced that Cepeda would be racing as part of EF's lineup (though the team's final selection was different).

The pair appear to have replaced Lachlan Morton and Alex Howes on the EF squad list, with neither rider appearing under EF Education-EasyPost on the UCI website. In recent seasons, the pair have turned their focus more and more to gravel racing and the 'alternative calendar'.

Howes only has seven road race days to his name in 2022, while Morton hasn't turned out in EF colours on the road since February. Both men now look likely to have said goodbye to their road careers as they turn their full-time attention to gravel and off-road racing.

Meanwhile, Piccolo and Cepeda are set to be the latest in a long line of talent to make the jump from Savio's team to the WorldTour, following Simon Pellaud, Fausto Masnada, Mattia Cattaneo, Iván Sosa, Egan Bernal, and more.

Ecuadorian rider Cepeda has been at Androni since 2020, the 24-year-old since scoring some stand-out results including fourth at the 2021 Tour of the Alps, second at this year's Giro di Sicilia, and fifth at June's Adriatica Ionica Race.

EF Education-EasyPost confirmed Piccolo's arrival on Saturday afternoon. It is his third team of the season, having only joined Androni in late June. Piccolo is expected to make his debut in EF colours at the Tour de l’Ain in France between August 9-11. 

The 21-year-old Italian turned pro with Astana last year but didn't race due to "personal health reasons" detected at an early season training camp. The highly rated youngster returned with the development squad Viris Vigevano, taking a win at the U23 Ruota d'Oro before joining Gazprom-RusVelo this season.

Once again, his promising career looked to be in trouble when the squad was banned from competition by the UCI following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. After three months of no racing, he came back with Androni, taking fourth at the Italian National Championships, sixth at the Sibiu Tour, and second at the Circuito de Getxo before his transfer to EF. He was

“For me, of course the jersey is a huge bonus,” Piccolo said of his transfer to EF. 

“All the teams are good in the WorldTour but I was excited about the prospect of joining EF Education-EasyPost. It’s a big honor for me.”

“The last two years have been really challenging for me,” says Piccolo. “But I am thankful for my family and for the courage they have given me to get here. This year, I have found a good path and I am really happy. Everything is looking good.”

Team manager Jonathan Vaughters is also expecting a lot from Piccolo. 

“Andrea is the best talent in Italy,” he suggested. 

“I really look forward to seeing what’s in store for Andrea. My expectations are quite high. I wouldn't be surprised if he won a pro race before the end of the year and shocked a few people.” 

That confirms Savio's opinion.

"I tell you now, in times of no suspicion, that Andrea Piccolo will become a great rider. He is a talent," Savio said of Piccolo in the interview with Bici.Pro as he explained why he let him step up to WorldTour level in exchange for what he calls a 'development bonus' fee. 

"You get contacted by a WorldTour team and what do you tell the guy – not to go? No way. Over there he will have more money, more stability regarding calendars and about the future, with contracts of two or three years," Savio said.

"Yes, we also received a small financial reward for Piccolo and for Cepeda who will follow him in the EF. Clearly, we are talking about much lower figures than in the Bernal case.

"I would have gladly kept Piccolo another year to relaunch him definitively. I would have liked to at least finish the season and win a few races on the Italian calendar with him. But, I repeat, how can you keep him in the face of much better compensation and a calendar that will bring him up against the greatest riders?"

Cepeda and Piccolo are unlikely to be the last riders from Savio's team to make the step up to the WorldTour this transfer window. 

Eritrean 23-year-old Natnael Tesfatsion – who recently finished second at the Giro dell'Appennino and at Adriatica Ionica – is also likely to move on next season with Trek-Segafredo interested.

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