Two riders from Lotto Soudal's under-23 development team, Viktor Verschaeve and Florian Vermeersch, have signed contracts with the senior Lotto Soudal squad that will keep them at the WorldTour outfit until the end of 2022, although U23 Belgian road race champion Vermeersch will only join the team in June 2020, while Verschaeve has to wait until January 1, 2021.
On securing Vermeersch for Lotto Soudal, general manager John Lelangue said in a press release: "Florian is strong – a big talent with a huge potential. The 2019 season was just his first year as real road cyclist.
"Before that, he was a successful cyclo-cross rider, and last season we could already see the potential of some other cyclo-cross riders [on the road]," Lelangue said, presumably referring to Dutch and Belgian stars Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
"Florian convinced us, not only with his [U23] national road title, but in many other races, including the Tour de Moselle, where he won three of the four stages and the GC. He can start with us in a slow, smooth way, most likely in the Baloise Belgium Tour [June 14]. Later, he can do some other small stage races. Our young talents, formed by Kurt Van de Wouwer, will get the chance to grow, without any rush," he said.
"This is a perfect way to join the WorldTour team," added 20-year-old Vermeersch. "I'll still be able to show my champion's jersey in the first months of the season, and I'll be able to prepare for my step up to the highest level in a non-rushed way.
"I'm convinced that this will boost my development as a rider. Now, at our training camp in Mallorca, I'm riding with champions like Philippe Gilbert, Caleb Ewan, John Degenkolb and Tim Wellens. I knew those guys only from TV. Now we're training together, and I've already learned so many things from them.
"I had always dreamed of becoming a pro rider, and so a dream has come true," said Vermeersch.
Verschaeve, 21, finished second at the U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April, behind US rider Kevin Vermaerke (Hagens Berman Axeon), and went on to take ninth place overall at the Giro Ciclistico d'Italia – the so-called 'Baby Giro' – in June.
"Not having to search for a team in 2020 means that it will be a year without stress, but still a year with plenty of ambition," said the 21-year-old Belgian climber, who'll continue with the development team next season ahead of joining the WorldTour team at the start of the following year.
"Being together with the pro riders at our training camp in Mallorca, I've already been impressed on a daily basis. Everything here is so professional: nutrition, the bikes, specific training – so many details. I can't wait to start the season," he said.