South Africa’s Devin Shortt landed his first professional contract, but said he still had a long way to go before he reached his final goal.
He announced via social media last week his signing with U23 Italian team Gragnano. The news came after he finished 110th in the junior road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway, last month.
“I am excited, but there are a lot of unknowns,” said Shortt. “If I don’t sound too excited, it’s because this isn’t my goal yet. This is just a step in the right direction.”
He said discussions had been ongoing with the team for a few months, but he only put pen to paper last month.
The Tuscany-based team was the starting block for Rafał Majka, and Shortt said he was looking forward to working under and learning from Director Sportif Marcello Massini.
Shortt, who originally hoped to sign with Dimension Data, said he was positive about the direction his career was headed.
“I think the best thing for me is to go to an U23 team in Italy because if you race with a continental team, you can only race continental races, whereas if you join an U23 team you can race U23 and continental races,” said the 18-year-old.
Key to the new deal, said Shortt, was the fact he finished school last year and signed with an agent this year.
“I finished school last year, so I could go to Europe for a lot longer than I’ve ever been able to before. I think that really is key in getting a signing because being there for three months allows you to meet a lot more people and race a lot more.”
He admitted leaving school behind had taken some getting used to, but said he far preferred riding to writing.
“It’s been a bit of a change being out of school and sort of getting accustomed to the pro lifestyle, if I can call it that. You don’t have to worry about anything but riding your bike.”
Despite having had a taste of success when he won the El Trofeo Santiago in Spain in July, the Cape Town resident said he was unsure of what to expect of the next step in his career.
He will jet off to Italy in February where he will settle in Lucca for the season, with just a brief visit home in July, before returning to Italy until October.
“The first couple of months will be interesting. I’m pretty sure they’re going to be hard in terms of trying to sort out the pecking order among the guys, but after that hopefully it dies down a bit.
“It’s hard to say what to expect really, I just need to get there and see what happens.”