Lachlan Morton among his EF Education-EasyPost teammates at the 2022 Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior.

Mid-season changes at EF Education-EasyPost as Morton and Howes go off-road full-time

Young newcomers Jefferson Alexander Cepeda and Andrea Piccolo pull on pink without delay.

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As the transfer window swings wide open, more mid-season moves are being made as Jefferson Alexander Cepeda and Andrea Piccolo jump across to EF Education-EasyPost from Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli.

Both Cepeda and Piccolo are listed as EF riders on the UCI website, and VeloNews had the news all but confirmed by Drone Hopper boss Gianni Savio last week, although only young Italian Piccolo has been announced by the American outfit thus far. Reportedly, Cepeda was due to start the Vuelta a Burgos in his new pink jersey but paperwork held up the process a little.

Piccolo though, will take his burgeoning talent to the Tour de l’Ain from August 9-11 for his debut with EF Education-EasyPost.

“For me, of course the jersey is a huge bonus,” Piccolo said in the team’s statement. “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.”

EF is not the first WorldTour team that the 21-year-old has signed for, but his tenure at Astana ended amicably five months into his contract in 2021 as a result of ‘misfortune and medical issues’. He then spent a couple of months with Gazprom until their demise early this year, when Drone Hopper came to his rescue, and now EF.

“The last two years have been really challenging for me,” said 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.”

To make room for the newcomers, Lachlan Morton and Alex Howes leap the fence they’ve been straddling for a couple of seasons, stepping away from road racing for good to focus on their off-road endeavours.

Morton has spear-headed the team’s ‘Alt Tour’ program for a couple of seasons, carving out a rare niche at the top tier of cycling whereby a WorldTour road rider can balance off-road passion with team duties. Over time, the Australian’s focus has leaned more and more into the alternative side, his most notable exploits including last season’s alternative Tour de France and his extraordinary fundraising ride to the Polish-Ukrainian border earlier this year.

Howes has always incorporated off-road and mountain biking in his training, and he’s put more and more time into the knobbly tyres in the past few seasons, joining Morton’s alternative calendar.

Though neither Morton nor Howes are WorldTour riders anymore, it’s expected that, like Mitch Docker who retired from the road last year, they’ll continue under the Slipstream umbrella as Alt Riders.

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