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by Shane Stokes
October 1, 2014
Seeking to refresh and improve the team after a somewhat disappointing 2014 season, Team Sky has announced the signing of five riders, with Leopold König, Nicolas Roche, Andrew Fenn, Lars Petter Nordhaug and Wout Poels confirmed Tuesday as coming on board.
König showed his promise when he finished seventh this season in what was his first Tour de France. Still just 26 years of age, the Czech rider’s career is on an upwards curve. Team principal Dave Brailsford promises to help him continue to develop.
“Leopold joins us from NetApp–Endura and is a very exciting talent. He’s ridden two Grand Tours in his career and has impressed in both. Leo’s a very gifted rider who has a great combination of climbing and time trialling ability, so he’ll be an excellent addition. We’re looking forward to working closely with him so that he can develop further,” he said.
König has made continuous progress in his career, with his past results including stage victories in the Vuelta a España, the Tour of California and the Tour of Britain, plus his seventh place finish in this year’s Tour de France.
Currently racing with Team NetApp Endura, he is seen as a rider who could go on to challenge for a podium in the race but, in the short term, is more likely to be required to ride for Chris Froome.
“I’ve always had a huge amount of respect for Team Sky so to be joining them is a real honour for me,” he said. “It fills me with huge excitement to know that I’ll be working with some of the best support staff in the world and riding alongside such a talented group of riders. Next season I want to focus on improving my stage racing abilities and pay back their trust in me by helping win races.”
Roche also has a top ten finish in a Grand Tour to his credit, having finished fifth in last year’s Vuelta a España. He was also sixth in the same race in 2010 and placed twelfth in the 2012 Tour de France. He took the first stage race victory of his pro career in June when he won the Route du Sud, and the 30 year old is keen to continue progressing as he moves on from Tinkoff Saxo.
His move to the British team was widely anticipated and Tuesday’s announcement is confirmation of that. “It’s a great honour to sign for Team Sky and I have the opportunity to ride with some of the best riders in the world,” he said. “I feel that I’m still developing as a rider so now’s the perfect time to join Team Sky and to continue my upwards path.
“I’m confident that under the guidance of Sir Dave Brailsford and the team, I’ll continue to improve.”
Brailsford points out that Roche, the son of 1987 Tour de France winner Stephen Roche, becomes the second Irish rider on the team after Philip Deignan. He believes he is a very strong signing for the squad.
“He brings a wealth of experience, having ridden 13 Grand Tours in his career, and that will be invaluable to the team. Nicolas has the perfect character and temperament for us. We expect him to play a key role next season.”
Fenn is 24 years of age and becomes the first Scottish rider to sign for the team. He has spent the past three seasons with Omega Pharma-QuickStep and this year won the GP Briek Schotte. He is regarded as a talented rider for one day events and will bolster the team’s Classics campaign.
“Team Sky has always been built around a strong British core so to be the team’s first Scottish rider is very special for me,” he said. “I’m joining a team that has helped nurture and develop some of the best riders in the world so I’m really excited to see what the future holds. I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead and fulfilling my potential with Team Sky.”
Brailsford knows Fenn from his time coming through the British Cycling system and said that the team understands his abilities well. “He has a bright future and we’re sure that he can develop into a key member of our team, and an integral part of our Classics squad,” he stated.
Lars Petter Nordhaug will play a similar role, having won the GP de Montreal and the Trofeo Deia during his period with the team between 2010 and 2012. After two years with Belkin Pro Cycling he is returning, and the 30 year old sees it as a homecoming of sorts.
He wants to use that platform to get back to his top condition. “I learnt a huge amount with the team and it resulted in my best year as a cyclist so far, in 2012. I look forward to picking up where I left off and continuing to progress as a rider by reaching new levels with the team in the future.”
As for Poels, the past Tour of Luxembourg and Tour de l’Ain runner-up is recognised as a strong climber. Brailsford describes the 26 year old as someone who will be a great addition to the team, and also as a rider with ‘huge potential.’
He believes the team can help him to progress, and Poels makes clear that this was a factor in his decision.
“This team has a very clear goal for me over the coming years and I look forward to developing as a rider and getting the maximum out of my strengths and qualities,” he said. “I feel my best years are ahead of me, so it was crucial to make the right choice on my future. I know I can achieve my goals racing with Team Sky.”