• Janez Brajkovič has raced at the highest level throughout his career. (Getty)Source: Getty
There is a lot of movement in professional road cycling at this time of year and two late announcements illustrate the career choices made by riders.
Cycling Central

24 Nov 2016 - 4:00 PM 

After racing with some of the biggest teams in the world, like Discovery Channel, Astana and Radioshack, Slovenian Janez (Jani) Brajkovič dropped a level to ride with United Healthcare at ProContinental level in 2015.

The naturally gifted climber is now returning to the WorldTour as support for Vincenzo Nibali at the newly created Bahrain-Merida team.

In his younger days the 32-year-old was once seen as a serious Grand Tour prospect, with a victory in the 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné and a top-ten placing in the 2012 Tour de France as highlights, but he struggled with illness and injury which blunted his progress.

Now he's a veteran with a specific mission, even though the fires of riding for himself still flickers.

“This is a unique opportunity for me, to ride again in the highest class,” Brajkovič said. “I am determined to prove that I still belong in professional cycling and I’m very motivated and also optimistic about the next season. 

"My priority now is to give 100 per cent to the team, help (Vincenzo) Nibali and other teammates and also prove to myself that I am still capable of good results.”

After three seasons at Astana, Dutchman Lieuwe Westra will do what Brajkovič did earlier and take a step down to the ProContinental level, with Wanty-Groupe Gobert.

But for him, it's the lure of freeing himself of team responsibilities and pursuing team leadership in big races at the late age of 34.

He's a tough, versatile customer with strength all over the road. He can time trial and is very strong in medium mountain stages.

His last victory came this year at the Three Days of De Panne and it's that race appears to have been a catalyst for the move.

“Since that victory, I feel like I want to go for my own chances more often again," Westra said. "I have had a wonderful time at Astana, and I want to thank the team for that.

"In a smaller team like Wanty-Groupe Gobert I can take up another role in the races. And that is something I am also looking forward to."

“On top of that, apart from Hilaire (sporting director DS Hilaire Van der Schueren), I will be working with many familiar faces. In a way riding for this team will also feel a bit like coming home.”