Leopold König has been signed by the German Bora-Hansgrohe team for the 2017 season, having spent two years with Team Sky.
The 28-year-old from the Czech Republic has been signed by the team for three years to bolster its Grand Tour aspirations, and will be the squad’s leader at the 2017 Tour de France.
König has secured top 10 positions in each of the three Grand Tours in the past four seasons, having ridden to seventh in the 2014 Tour, sixth in the 2015 Giro d’Italia and ninth in the 2013 Vuelta a España.
König previously rode for the team between 2011-2014 when it was called NetApp before signing to Sky for the 2015 season, and says it feels like he is ‘coming home’.
“It was Enrico Poitschke and Ralph Denk [Bora team manager] back then who picked me up from a small continental team and gave me the chance to race the biggest races in the world and to progress as a rider,” said König in a statement.
“So when I heard about their new project and ambitions I felt like coming back home where it all started. I’ve learned a lot the last two years with Team Sky and I’m extremely grateful for this experience. Now I’m ready to give my best in the coming years and chase our ambitious goals.”
König put in a strong performance in the 2016 Vuelta in support of Chris Froome, who finished second behind overall winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar). König had been fifth overall after stage 14 of the race, but slipped down the GC after stage 15, eventually finishing 29th.
“I am very happy that Leo is coming back to our team Bora-Hansgrohe,” said Denk. “I feel honoured, because it is a big evidence of trust to make that move coming from Team Sky, and even 2016 was not his best season he still is one of a few riders that has the potential to finish a Grand Tour on the podium.
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“Once we developed Leo from amateur level to a top ten Tour de France rider, now we look forward to learn from his experience from the last years.”
Bora-Hansgrohe team owner Willi Bruckbauer said that they had tried to keep König on the squad before he moved to Sky, but could not match the British team’s offer.
“Two years ago we tried hard to keep Leo in the team,” said Bruckbauer. “It didn’t work out, and I was a bit disappointed to be honest. Now I know we could never have won that poker game back then.
“When Ralph informed me, that he managed to sign Leo again for the coming years, I was more than happy. Great to have him back.”
The Bora-Hansgrohe team is currently racing as Bora-Argon18, but will change names for 2017 as it welcomes in new sponsor Hansgrohe. The team has signed several high-profile riders for next year, including current world champion Peter Sagan. The team is hoping to move up from UCI Professional Continental status to WorldTour.