Kiwis sign for French pro team

Reuben Thompson in action at the UCI Road World Championships in 2019. PHOTO: ROBERT JONES
Reuben Thompson in action at the UCI Road World Championships in 2019. PHOTO: ROBERT JONES
Talented teens Reuben Thompson and Laurence Pithie have signed for the development squad of one of the UCI World Tour’s most prestigious professional cycling teams.

Queenstown’s Thompson and national criterium champion Pithie, from Christchurch, have signed contracts to join Groupama-FDJ Continental team.

Thompson has two weeks sitting on his indoor-trainer in an isolation hotel after returning from Europe to contemplate what has been a year of many trials and tribulations before securing his dream contract.

He had planned to go to Europe early this year after signing a contract with another World Tour development team, Deceuninck-Quick Step.

But it dropped plans for its development team on the eve of his departure, so he found a spot on an amateur team in Spain.

Though it was not his ideal scenario, he headed to Europe. Then the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Thompson flew home for the lockdown period before returning to race in Spain in early July. But it was not the opportunity that had been within his reach.

His agent called with the good news that he would join Pithie at Groupama-FDJ.

"After all of the challenges and the ups-and-downs, to get this news was unreal,” Thompson said.

"I’ve just returned from the first training camp which was amazing.

"The opportunities will be fantastic, not just for the next two years, but we will be integrated into racing with the World Tour riders and if we can perform, then there is the hope we will move up to the World Tour.

"They are the biggest French team in France, the home of cycling."

While in isolation he is training for the Tour of Southland where he will ride for the Vet4Farm team which includes former Great Britain representative Mark Stewart, a gold medallist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Thompson originally moved to Cambridge to develop a triathlon career. He boarded at St Peter’s School with Finn Fisher-Black, who is now riding for the development team of World Tour Team Jumbo Visma.

"Ultimately Finn was the one to really get me onboard with the cycling and helped me get a guest ride with Team Skoda Fruzio in late 2018."

After the junior national championships in April last year he "made the switch to focus 100% on the road”.

Thompson produced some exceptional performances on the New Zealand under-19 team’s tour in France.

"I want to do a good job for the team at the Tour of Southland. But the focus will be to build a big base before returning to Europe to join the team, who will be based near the border with Switzerland."

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