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It takes a team to win a grand tour, and two major squads have shored up their bases by keeping key domestiques for next season’s big battles.
Trek announced contract extensions for Spanish veteran Haimar Zubeldia and Luxembourger Laurent Didier while Movistar confirmed four key workers — Rory Sutherland, JJ Rojas, Winner Anacona, and Imanol Erviti — will be back next year. Those moves mean that both teams will have strong support around their respective captains, and will be ready to take on “Fortress Froome” at Team Sky in the 2017 Tour de France.
“I am a domestique, and I look forward to the next two years to continue in this support role,” Didier said in a team release. “It was very important continue in a team where they know me and how I work as well.”
Didier re-ups for two years, while Zubeldia signed on for one more season in what will be his 20th in the peloton. Both riders will provide support to Contador, who joins from Tinkoff and brings Jesus Hernández with him. Trek is also rebuilding its classics program around John Degenkolb following the retirement of Fabian Cancellara, but the squad will also be firmly focused on the grand tours with Contador on board along with Bauke Mollema.
“The team has taken another dimension with Contador and Degenkolb joining us next year,” Zubeldia said. “I raced with Alberto some years ago, so we already know each other, and it’s important to me that he is also a Spanish guy. I will have a bigger role next year supporting both Mollema and Contador, and that is also very motivating for me.”
Movistar also reconfirmed its front-line offense for Quintana, who will target the 2017 Tour with renewed confidence after winning the Vuelta a España after a thrilling battle with Chris Froome (Sky).
Sutherland, who rode both the Giro and Vuelta for Movistar, and Erviti give Movistar brawn in the flats and crosswinds. The addition of Daniele Bennati will also help in the trenches. Rojas, who is recovering from a horrible crash at the Vuelta, has also slotted into a pure helper’s role after giving up on the bunch sprints. Anacona has emerged as one of Quintana’s most useful helpers in the mountains.
This year’s Vuelta reconfirmed just how important a solid team is during a grand tour. Unlike the Tour de France, where Sky brought its A-team, Froome was left isolated in a few key moments during the Spanish grand tour. Movistar’s coup in the 120km stage to Formigal torpedoed Froome’s hopes of winning the Spanish tour and helped secure Quintana’s second major grand tour victory of his career.
After two active seasons on the rider marketplace, Sky has kept a low profile so far going into 2017 in terms of big signings. Like Movistar and Trek, it has re-upped some of its most consistent performers, with renewed contracts with Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe.