Wout Poels has confirmed that he will be leaving Team Ineos at the end of 2019 to join Bahrain-Merida.
The Dutchman has been strongly linked to the team for much of this season as he looks to take more leadership opportunities that were not often afforded to him with Sky/Ineos.
Poels confirmed to Dutch news outlet De Telegraaf that he would be joining Bahrain, saying that new team principal Rod Ellingworth was instrumental in convincing him to join. Ellingworth had been with Sky as a coach and performance director since the team’s inception in 2010 before leaving earlier this year.
“He [Ellingworth] is also the person who convinced me to ride for this team. I look forward to this new challenge, where new opportunities lie ahead,” Poels told De Telegraaf, which reports that he will sign on a two-year contract.
The transfer was confirmed by Bahrain-Merida later on Wednesday afternoon. Bahrain have formed a partnership with British automotive manufacturer McLaren, which has helped in bringing Ellingworth and new stars on board.
“It’s fantastic to welcome Wout to the team,” said team manager Brent Copeland. “A consistent top performer and no stranger to success, he is one of professional cycling’s shining lights and we’re incredibly excited to have him on board. His vast experience will be invaluable as we build an exciting new chapter for the team in partnership with McLaren.”
Poels previously worked with Ellingworth since he joined Sky from Quick-Step in 2015, scoring the best results of his career with the British super-team.
The 31-year-old won Sky their first Monument, with victory in horrendous conditions at the 2016 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Poels has also taken stage wins at a number of major races in his time with the team, including Tirreno-Adriatico, Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, Tour of the Basque Country, Tour of Poland and the Tour of Britain, where he has four career stage wins. His most recent victory for Ineos came at the Critérium du Dauphiné this year, where he also finished fourth overall.
A strong climber, Poels has played a major support role in the team’s Grand Tour success, riding to victory with Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal in all three Grand Tours. In fact, until this year’s Vuelta a España, every Grand Tour Poels had ridden for Sky/Ineos had ended in an overall victory for the team.
He will likely be looking for more leadership opportunities with Bahrain, who are targeting Grand Tour victories having fallen short with Vincenzo Nibali since 2017. While Nibali will be leaving to join Trek-Segafredo for 2020, Bahrain are placing their hopes on new recruit Mikel Landa for overall success along with Poels.