French Pro Continental team Vital Concept already have 20 riders contracted for next season but are still on the lookout for one or two marque signings, with rumours of moves for Pierre Rolland and Serge Pauwels currently circulating. The likelihood of signing the latter is slim with the Belgian team this morning telling Cyclingnews that despite interest from the French team he would most likely be re-signing with Dimension Data. Pauwels and the Dimension Data management are set for final talks in the next 48 hours.
"We're not in a position to confirm anything at the moment," Vital Concept's Jermoe Pineau told Cyclingnews on Thursday afternoon.
"We've not made any new signings at the moment. There are lots of rumours about my team but for now I can't confirm if this one has arrived or this one has arrived. We've had lots of discussions and we're in negotiations but I respect the calendar and full negotiations only started August 1."
Rolland is out of contract this year after three years in Slipstream Sports. In that time he has won just twice and failed to regain his momentum as Tour de France or Giro d'Italia top-ten contender. Of course, Rolland also brings with him a wealth of experience, and EF Education First-Drapac could decide that he is worth another deal. However, a number of French teams, including Direct Energie - who are looking to move back into the WorldTour - have been linked with the French athlete. Pineau admitted that he too had made contact with Rolland - a rider he raced the 2008 Olympic Games with - but that no offer or formal negotiations had taken place. Budget, space and a smaller race programme are all potential hurdles but Pineau also confirmed that he is willing to wait.
"Pierre Rolland is at a big team, in the WorldTour and he costs a lot. At the moment I can't say I'm not interested but at the same time I can't say that he's coming because we would need to upgrade the budget. He's a super strong rider but he costs a lot for sure. I've talked to him but that's because he is my friend. I've known him since the Olympics in 2008. He has told me that he's happy at EF, and at a big team. I think he's happy there but I don't know if he will leave. We've not spoken since the Dauphine but I've talked to his manager but we've not had proper negotiations," he said.
"I know that Pierre has had some propositions from other French teams but I think he wants to stay in the WorldTour. The chance of signing him now is small but if he's free at the end of August then maybe I can make something."
For Pineau the next steps for his young team is to develop the talent they currently have and try and look for a more competitive edge in tougher, mountainous races. Hence the interest in a rider of Pauwels quality.
"The team would be interested to progress in the mountains and in the big Tours. Serge is consistent and I rode with him at Omega. He's a smart guy, a good guy, and a good rider but at the moment I don't know if we can do something. He's out of contract and we are interested in all the big riders out of contract. I'm being really honest with you. I have a plan and I want to find a bit more budget so we can do something.
"We have 20 riders for next season. If you find me another sponsor I can bring us to 29 but seriously we'd like maybe to go with 22 riders at Pro Continental level. We're still a baby, and we need to go step-by-step. It's too early for WorldTour. We're growing up together but the signs I've seen are really good. Give us two or three more years to progress."
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