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“It remains our mission to support young riders and that’s why we gladly offer this opportunity to these three neo-pros. With the transfer of Enzo Wouters and James Shaw, we can further stimulate our U23 project."

Photo: Sirotti

LOTTO SOUDAL

TEAM PROFILE
|
NEWS
11.10.2016 @ 16:10 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Three U23 riders will become pro at Lotto Soudal next year. Belgians Rémy Mertz (21) and Enzo Wouters (20) and the British rider James Callum Shaw (20) will make the jump. In the past three seasons Mertz rode for Color Code – Arden ‘Beef’ and Shaw and Wouters are now a member of the Lotto Soudal U23 team. They all signed a two-year contract.

 

Manager Marc Sergeant tells more about the choice for these three youngsters and they also react to their transfer.

 

“Rémy Mertz has been riding for the U23 team of Christophe Brandt," Sergeant said. "This year Rémy, who’s riding in the U23 category for the third year, told he felt ready to become pro. This season he finished sixth in the U23 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Rémy says he’s good at riding stage races, but he can also perform in one-day races and the Flemish races don’t scare him off either. He will have to develop his skills gradually, starting at the training camp in December. We always give young riders the opportunity to grow, we don’t judge them on their first performances. It’s important to give them time.”

 

Rémy Mertz added: 

 

“I’m lucky to join such a strong team at this young age. Being part of Lotto Soudal is a dream come true. It’s the best possible team for me. The team is known for the opportunities it offers to young riders. Just think of Tiesj Benoot, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens. It’s a challenge to become pro and it’s exciting. The first year it will all be new and no doubt I will learn a lot, also about myself. This year I was sixth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. That’s a type of course I like. I’m also looking forward to riding on cobbles, riding for Lotto Soudal will teach me a lot about racing in Flanders.”

 

“Enzo Wouters is only twenty years old," Sergeant said. "It’s an early pro début, but what’s good comes fast. Enzo is a sprinter and because there are not many Belgian sprinters we definitely wanted him in our team. Next year he can already show his fast legs in smaller races. That could be after a breakaway or in a bunch sprint. At that young age, results don’t come regularly, but we can definitely expect him to show his talents occasionally.”

 

Enzo Wouters added: 

 

“Until halfway this season I hadn’t expect to become pro next year, but from then on things started moving. I am really happy with this opportunity. It feels good that the team believes in me. This is also nice for the U23 team led by Kurt Van de Wouwer. Kurt teaches us how to read the race and also tells us that we should dare to try something. You can learn from your mistakes he says. As a sprinter it is fantastic to join a team with so much know-how in this area. In 2014 I got third at Paris-Roubaix for juniors. I like the Classics, but I need to become stronger for that type of races.”

 

“In the past months James Shaw, who’s twenty just like Enzo Wouters, already rode some races with our WorldTour team as a trainee. He participated in the Tour of Britain and in a race of that level you immediately know what someone is worth. James did very well during that race and the team was very satisfied. He mainly had a supporting role and that will also be the case next year. When he was a junior he won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and this year he finished fifth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège for U23 riders. As a pro that is a rare combination. Next year we’ll see which races suit him best.”

 

James Shaw added: 

 

“It’s an incredible feeling to become pro. It’s still is a bit surreal, but I’m really looking forward to flying the Lotto Soudal flag as a pro next year. In the past years I really felt home in the U23 team and I am glad I can stay with Lotto Soudal. I enjoyed my time as a trainee in the WorldTour team and I’m so glad I will be riding for it the next two years. As a trainee I could ride the Tour of Britain. It was amazing to ride in my home country with my home crowd and friends and family supporting me. I was riding with some of the best riders in the world by my side. I don’t know what to expect of my first year as a pro. The traineeship was already a good introduction. I will certainly do my best. I am a bit of a puncher and rouleur, but as a 20-year-old I don’t want to say yet how I’ll spend the rest of my career. During the next years I want to discover more about myself.”

 

Marc Sergeant concluded: 

 

“It remains our mission to support young riders and that’s why we gladly offer this opportunity to these three neo-pros. With the transfer of Enzo Wouters and James Shaw, we can further stimulate our U23 project and show to juniors that our project works. The story of James proves that we don’t only look for Belgians, but also give foreign riders a chance. It’s an advantage that we already know these riders from the U23 category and have tested them, but that doesn’t mean we are blind for talent in other teams.”

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