Harry Sweeny to sign, Harm Vanhoucke to re-sign with Lotto Soudal
Both riders reached an agreement with Lotto Soudal until end 2022.
Harm Vanhoucke turns pro at Lotto Soudal as of 1 July. The 21-year-old Belgian is a product of the U23 team which is led by Kurt Van de Wouwer. The young climber already showed his talent by winning the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia in 2016 and he already took stage victories in prestigious U23 races such as the Giro della Valle d’Aosta and the Tour de Savoie Mont-Blanc. Vanhoucke is currently recovering from anaemia, but he started training again.
Harm Vanhoucke: “I have been training for a couple of weeks now, but there is still a long way to go. I look very much forward to becoming pro, it is like a dream come true. It wasn’t a difficult decision to stay at Lotto Soudal because I have been part of the team since I first raced in the U23 category. Of course, I hope to learn a great deal from the riders who have been pro for years and who already have a lot of experience.”
“Especially the races which include a lot of climbing, like those in the high mountains suit me. I think that I’m not really fit for the one-day races, although I already won the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia. I will primarily focus on the shorter stage races, where I hope to be able to take the victory one day. But I would like to go once in my career all out for a Grand Tour and see where that takes me. But you have to sacrifice a lot for that. Let’s first see what I can do in the one-week stage races.”
“First, I will go on a training camp at altitude in Livigno together with some teammates. The Tour de Pologne will be one of my first races as a pro. That will be tough, especially because I haven’t been racing for quite a while now. Afterwards, I will participate in some races with the national U23 team as a preparation for the U23 World Championships in Innsbruck. I would like to make a goal of that race and battle for the victory. But it’s a one-day race, so it will all depend on how the legs feel that day.”
Harm Vanhoucke: "I look very much forward to becoming pro, it is like a dream come true."
Kurt Van de Wouwer, head of Lotto Soudal U23: “Harm Vanhoucke had to take some rest before he could begin his pro career. There is of course some uncertainty when you’re out of competition for a while, but I am convinced that everything will be fine.”
“Vanhoucke is a pure climber, which his list of victories already proves. In the future, stage races such as the Tour de Romandie, the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Volta a Catalunya should suit him very well. Not yet for the general classification, but he can select some stages to show himself. That’s a first step before targeting the GC. He also has to improve his time trial skills.”
“It is always a nice feeling to pass on a rider to the pro team of Lotto Soudal. In the case of Harm, it quickly became clear that he would be a nice candidate for the WorldTour. The first part of his season didn’t go as planned, but now he fully gets the opportunity to further develop himself within the pro team. I think a rider such as Jelle Vanendert could play an important role for Harm. Vanendert already has a lot of experience in the races which should fit the profile of Vanhoucke.”