James Shaw’s awaited return to the WorldTour has been confirmed, as he has signed with EF Education-Nippo for 2022.
The 25-year-old Brit previously raced at the highest level with Lotto-Soudal earlier in his career, but suffered the disappointment of being dropped without warning at the end of 2018.
Shaw spent the next three seasons racing at Continental and ProTeam level, but has now found a home at US WorldTeam EF, after catching the attention of team boss Jonathan Vaughters through his resilience.
Former pro Vaughters said: “James went into the WorldTour probably a little too young and just got lost in the mix and didn’t know how to fit in, didn’t adapt to their management style. And that’s really hard.
“Basically he had to restart his career from scratch at 22 years old. Luckily he’s a really smart and resourceful kid who just figured out how to bootstrap his way back into professional cycling and he’s shown since then, on his own two feet, that he has the ability to be competitive with the best in the WorldTour so this is his born again moment as a WorldTour rider. He’s going to go back though his new pro year all over again, only this time as a 25-year-old as opposed to as a 19-year-old.”
Shaw stepped up to WorldTour level with Lotto-Soudal, first as a stagiaire and then as a neo pro in 2017.
But at the end of his two-year contract, Lotto-Soudal let Shaw go, resulting in him stepping down to Continental level with SwiftCarbon in 2019.
He was then able to move up a tier to join Riwal Securitas in 2020, before the ProTeam then folded due to a lack of funding.
Shaw was then signed to British Continental outfit Ribble-Weldtite for 2021, having a remarkable season and repeatedly showing his ability.
This year he repeatedly punched above his weight against WorldTour riders, finishing fifth overall in both the Tour of Slovenia and the Tour of Norway, and then 14th overall in the Tour of Britain, including a top-five finish on stage six into Gateshead.
Shaw said: “Bike racing has given me everything but it’s also taken everything away from me at the same time.
“It’s given me a perspective on life really. I went professional in 2019 but the team sadly didn’t retain their professional status due to finances caused by the pandemic, so in 2021 I dropped down to continental level. It made me realise that maybe the world’s not always fair and you have to take opportunities when you can and enjoy them when they do come around because you can’t take them for granted.
“I’m grateful to the guys and the management who’ve put their faith in me to offer me this opportunity,”
“I’m very grateful for that. I want to capitalise on that as much as possible and see what the next chapter is and see if it writes itself the way I hope it does.”
Vaughters added: “Ninety-five percent of people in his position would have given up.
“I have a high degree of respect for him that he didn’t give up, that he figured out a way to claw his way back in. He’s very clever that way, very resourceful.”
Shaw will fit into the EF Classics squad, particularly the Ardennes Classics like Liège-Bastogne-Liége, both in a support role and with the hopes of picking up some results for himself along the way.
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