NZ champ Dean signs for Slipstream

Top New Zealander joins top Brit Millar at up-and-coming US team with eye on Tour and ProTour

New Zealand road champion Julian Dean has announced he will ride for the US-based Slipstream squad next year.

"The 2008 season will see me heading to the ever-expanding American team, Slipstream, along with ex-teammates, David Zabriskie and Christian Vandevelde," Dean wrote on his website yesterday. "Also heading in the same direction is Dave Millar."

Dean, 32, is regarded as one of the best lead-out men in the business and was instrumental in setting up Thor Hushovd's stage 4 victory in this year's Tour de France.

Explaining the decision to charge teams, Dean wrote, "For me it's just all about tackling a new opportunity and a new environment and I'm really looking forward to it all. I enjoyed my time on Credit Agricole and it wasn't an easy decision to leave but I feel ready to move on."

Dean's destination is an intriguing squad. Currently a Professional Continental team, the tier below the top-rank ProTour, Slipstream is run by 34-year-old former professional Jonathan Vaughters, himself a former Credit Agricole rider. The team will remain at Professional Continental level in 2008 but is hoping for a wildcard entry to the Tour de France.

Vaughters has taken a strong stand against drugs in cycling, which should stand him and his team in good stead with the Tour de France organisation, especially after this year's turbulent Tour.

He has also called for understanding of the reasons why riders dope.

"I have never met one professional cyclist that wanted to dope. At least at the start of their careers. Not one," Vaughter told Cyclingnews.com last year. The problem, he said, is the immense pressure to get results that riders are under. "Directors and sponsors and fans have to be okay when their team doesn't win mechanically on the day they want," he said.

That attitude is be attracting some high-grade talent, and Vaughters has ambitions to match, with a ProTour berth on his schedule for 2009. As well as Dean, Zabriskie, Vandevelde and Millar Vaughters has already signed a recent winner of the tough Paris-Roubaix one-day race. He has remained tight-lipped about exactly who, but the list of still-active winners is a short one: Stuart O'Grady, Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, Magnus Backstedt, Peter Van Petegem and Frederic Guesdon.

© BikeRadar 2007

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