Elia Viviani is set to leave Deceuninck – Quick-Step at the end of the season to join Cofidis and will be replaced by Sam Bennett moving over from Bora-Hansgrohe, according to reports.
The 30-year-old sprinter will replace Nacer Bouhanni at the French team, with his departure apparently predicated in part by tense relations between Deceuninck – Quick-Step and their leaders, of which there are many on their star-studded roster.
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It is unlikely this will mean a step down to the Pro Continental ranks for Viviani, though, with Cofidis rumoured to be joining the WorldTour ranks alongside Total Direct Energie for the 2020 season, which would guarantee the French outfit a place at the biggest races in the calendar including the three Grand Tours.
Sam Bennett is set to replace Viviani as the Belgian’s team top-billed sprinter, according to L’Équipe, after the Irishman grew frustrated at his lack of Grand Tour opportunities at current employers Bora-Hansgrohe, with Pascal Ackermann being preferred for the Giro d’Italia and Peter Sagan being the first name on the list for their Tour de France squad.
Bennett was apparently close to signing for Movistar but had a preference for a team more suited to working for a sprinter and so when Deceuninck – Quick-Step came knocking the choice was clear.
Viviani’s lead-out man Fabio Sabatini will follow his Italian compatriot to Cofidis, with the Argentinian champion Maximiliano Richeze linking up with fellow South American Fernando Gaviria at UAE Team Emirates for the 2020 season, having been the Colombian’s lead-out man during his tenure with the Belgian team.
Philippe Gilbert’s omission from Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Tour de France line-up set in motion an exit from the team for the Paris-Roubaix winner, with the Belgian set for a return to Lotto-Soudal. Viviani therefore becomes the second high-profile rider on his way out the door.
Milan San-Remo winner Julian Alaphilippe has however extended his stay at Deceuninck – Quick-Step, signing a new two-year deal to remain until 2021.
Viviani is currently riding the 2019 Tour de France, finishing ninth in the bunch sprint on stage one as Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) took a surprise victory and first yellow jersey of this year’s race.