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Following yesterday’s news that the MTN-Qhubeka team will ride the Tour de France this year, the squad has confirmed that it will sign of a 23rd rider, namely multiple Irish champion Matt Brammeier.
Pending the completion of UCI paperwork, the 29 year old rider is joining the team on a two year deal and is part of a general strengthening of the squad for 2015. He won the Irish road race championship four times plus the time trial championship once, and is regarded as an experienced helper.
His goal will be to give support to both the team’s sprinters and also the all-rounders and climbers.
“Matt will fit into the team quite quickly,” general manager Brian Smith told CyclingTips this week. “I have been talking to Matt for a long time and trying to help him. He is a type of rider that we are missing a wee bit.
“I don’t want just sprinters to be left at the end, I need someone who is willing to ride on the front and Matt can do that well.”
Brammeier previously raced with the HTC Highroad and Omega Pharma-QuickStep squads, helping riders such as Mark Cavendish to success. More recently he spent two years at Continental level, racing with Champion System and Synergy Baku, but moves back up a notch now with the Pro Continental African squad.
It intends graduating to WorldTour in 2016 and so will be in line to ride all the top races.
“Matt knows his way around stage races,” Smith said. “He can ride Classics. He knows his way around the peloton. He is very good at looking after riders, he has looked after Mark Cavendish in the past.
“Maybe people don’t see it but there is a lot of work done before the guys get into the finale. He certainly has the experience to do it. We have got the South African guys but I think Matt has the experience of knowing when to take the leaders to the front, how to look after them in crosswinds and other things.
“I think we have got enough race winners, we just need somebody with the experience of delivering the guys.”
Brammeier has waited a long time for the final green light from the team. It was working in recent months to raise the funds to bring on extra riders and hopes to finalise an agreement with an additional British sponsor in the near future.
The confirmation that it will ride the Tour freed up additional cash from its existing sponsors.
It will also ink a deal with an additional African rider, although the finalisation of that is likely some time away. Smith told CyclingTips this week that the team is still considering who to take on.
Brammeier has been confirmed, though, and is raring to go. “I am happy and relieved to have everything done and sorted now,” he told CyclingTips. “I can just focus now on preparing for the season and getting stuck in.
“I think the team has been really smart with the guys they signed. A lot of the guys are hungry for success. Most of them didn’t really fit 100 percent into the teams they have been in. There are six, seven, eight, nine, ten guys who can potentially win big bike races. Not only the Euro guys, but also the Africans they have on the team.”
The latter are still developing but Brammeier is already impressed.
“I did a bit of racing with them in the last couple of years. There were times when I was thinking ‘f*cking hell, these guys are good. Who is this guy? Who is that guy?’
“There is so much potential there. You could just see riding by them in the peloton that they are just raw talent. Just being in this environment and having the last couple of years racing with this team and slowly growing and growing, I think this year they are really going to have big opportunities to make that big step up and show people that potential.
“Of course the exciting thing for me to work with those guys in the sprints and the Classics and things like that. The stuff I love to do. I am excited to get stuck back into that role.”
Directeur sportif Jens Zemke worked with Brammeier before and regards him as an important addition. “He is a loyal worker for the team and at nearly 30 years of age he is bringing lots of experience to the team, especially in the Classics, where he will support Edvald Boasson Hagen, Gerald Ciolek, Tyler Farrar, Matt Goss, Theo Bos and co.
“As a former Irish champion he rode his best season in 2011, where I worked with him at HTC Highroad. I am sure he will reach this level again with us.”
Brammeier is due to start his season in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean road race, after which he will ride the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.