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Dutch champion finds home at Italian pro continental team following the demise of his current Vacansoleil squad

Photo: Sirotti






25.10.2013 @ 13:44 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Following the demise of his Vacansoleil team, Johnny Hoogerland has finally found a new home for the 2014 season. The Dutch champion has signed a contract with Gianni Savio's Androni team and will be a key rider on the Italian squad in the coming season.


Since it was announced that the Vacansoleil team would fold at the end of the season, the riders on the Dutch squad have desperately searched for a new home. While riders like Lieuwe Westra, Wout Poels, Marco Marcato, Bjorn Leukemans, Thomas De Gendt and Boy and Danny Van Poppel have all found new teams for the coming season, several athletes find themselves with an uncertain future this late in the season.


One of the riders who have long been unable to find a team for 2014 is Dutch champion Johnny Hoogerland who has been linked with different squads. One rumour claimed that he would ride for the Wanty team of current Vacansoleil sports director Hilaire van der Schueren but that won't be the case. Today it was announced that the Dutchman will leave his home country to ride for the Androni team.


Gianni Savio's Italian team is mostly known for its climbers and South Americans and has played a prominent role in the Giro d'Italia for a decade. In 2005, they finished on the podium with Jose Rujano and last year, the team won two stages in the Italian grand tour. As it has often been the case, the team has been the best pro continental team in the season-long Coppa Italia and so has already secured a wildcard invitation for next year's Giro.


Hoogerland rose to prominence in 2009 when he won the Driedaagse van Westvlaanderen overall and raced a very aggressive Vuelta a Espana before finishing 12th overall. He has failed to reach the same heights since that fabulous grand tour but is known as a perennial attacker who excels in tough terrain.


However, he has attracted more attention due to his many crashes than his results. In 2011, he crashed into a barbed wire fence following a collision with a French television car while in a break in the Tour de France but managed to finish the stage before receiving his polka-dot jersey on the podium. Heroically, he  fought his way through the remaining part of the race. This year he crashed hard in training in February but made a comeback in the Tour de Romandie and won the Dutch championships less than two months later.


"We chose Hoogerland not only for the prestige of the Dutch champion's jersey but mostly because we have found that his personality fits perfectly with the spirit of our team," manager Gianni Savio said. "We are always in the attack and set a significant record in the recent Giro d'Italia where we did 1680 km in breakaways. Hoogerland is an aggressive rider. He has obtained results and always ridden with great determination. He demonstrated an exceptional spirit when he finished the Tour de France under brutal conditions two years ago."


"Everybody will remember the dramatic scene when Hoogerland was hit by a car and was thrown into the barbed wire fence at the side of the road," he added. "Without this incident, he could have finished with the mountains jersey, and even without the podium appearance on the Champs-Elysees, he was welcomed in Paris as a winner for his bravery ."

The signing of Hoogerland is an important one for Androni who will lose key riders like Franco Pellizotti (Astana), Fabio Felline (Trek) and Miguel Angel Rubiano (Colombia). He will be joined by new signings Manuel Belletti (Ag2r) and promising young riders Gianfranco Zilioli and Andrea Zordan who have attracted plenty of interest by virtue of their time as stagiaires in the second half of the season.



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