Omega Pharma-Quick Step have swiftly followed up this morning’s news that they have signed Alessandro Petacchi with the announcement of two other high-profile signings – Mark Renshaw from Belkin, and Team Sky’s Rigoberto Uran.
While Petacchi, who left Lampre-Merida in April, joins with effect from today with the opening of the UCI’s transfer window, Uran and Renshaw, both of whom have signed two-year contracts, will remain with their current teams until the end of the year.
The news does perhaps raise questions on the team’s focus going forward, however – Renshaw, formerly leadout man to Mark Cavendish at HTC-Highroad before that team was dissolved at the end of 2011, will join Petacchi in adding firepower for what looks like becoming a strong train for the Manxman.
Uran, however, has emerged as a genuine Grand Tour contender; winner of the best young rider’s jersey at the 2012 Giro d’Italia, in this year’s edition of the race he finished as runner-up on General Classification to Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali.
He’s also building a reputation as a one day racer; last year, he won the Giro del Piemonte, took Olympic silver behind Alexandre Vinokourov after the pair got clear of a breakaway group on Putney High Street, and also finished third in the final Monument of the season, the Giro di Lombardia.
As Uran was clinching that second place overall at this year’s Giro, Cavendish was taking five stage victories, including the opening and closing stages in Naples and Brescia, respectively.
But given his experience with Team Sky at the 2012 Tour de France, where the main focus was Bradley Wiggins’ pursuit of the yellow jersey, there’s bound to be some doubt whether the support Cavendish got from his team mates at this year’s Giro could also be sustained while mounting a challenge for the overall in a Grand Tour through Uran.
The 26-year-old Colombian climber is looking forward to the next stage of his career, however. Quoted on the Omega Pharma-Quick Step website, Uran said: "I am very pleased that I can race on a team as important as Omega Pharma – Quick-Step and that I can contribute to the growth of the team.
“The first time I came to Europe I was very close to signing with the team but then everything went up in smoke. After a few years our paths have crossed again. After the experience with Sky, who I thank for the years spent together, a new chapter in my career is beginning and I can't wait to get started."
Team manager Patrick Lefevere commented: "Rigoberto's arrival reinforces our team as far as the major tours are concerned.
“Urán is a top rider and his talent on climbs goes without saying. On our team he will find an atmosphere and a group of riders who are ready to support him.
“At the same time his experience and his skills will be important for our young athletes like Michal Kwiatkowski, for example, under a perspective of further growth."
Renshaw, meanwhile, headed to Rabobank when HTC-Highroad was disbanded, instead of following Cavendish – who had described him as the best leadout man in the world – and Bernie Eisel to Team Sky.
The 30-year-old Australian’s efforts to contest sprints in his own right have met with limited success though; a stage win in last year’s Tour of Turkey, and victory in the Spanish early season race, the Clasica de Almeria, in March this year.
While his move means that certainly in major races he will be setting his personal ambitions aside to help others, he’s enthusiastic about hooking up with Cavendish again.
"I'm delighted to be joining Omega Pharma – Quick-Step next year," he said. "It is one of the best teams in the world which I am looking forward to be a part of.
“Of course, after a couple of years apart, riding on the same team as my good friend Mark Cavendish again is something I am going to enjoy. It will be great returning to lead-out duty's fighting for victories with Cav. Hopefully we will celebrate many wins with him and the rest of the team."
Lefevere outlined that there were riders besides Cavendish whom Renshaw would be looking to support, explaining: "Mark is one of the most appreciated riders in his work as a lead-out man.
"His arrival is important to improve our potential in the preparation and execution of sprints for Cavendish, whom he already knows quite well.
“Mark will also be important for any eventual sprint by Boonen and when necessary he will put his experience to the service of our young sprinter Andy Fenn.
“With the skills and potential of Renshaw, Petacchi and Steegmans, our sprinters will be able to count on a high level lead out man in every race."
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