John Lelang, CEO of Lotto Soudal, spoke to the media this afternoon in Spain. His team is languishing at the bottom of the UCI rankings and he has to fear for his place as the WorldTour team in 2023. Lelangue isn’t worried at all. It is not related to this law nor about finding a guarantor to replace Soudal.
Always positive. This is how we know John Lilang. The 51-year-old team manager radiates that, too. You don’t even hear him complain about the 2021 results. “Well, last year was a bad year,” he says. “However, I have also seen positive indicators. Young people are developing. Vermeersch and Van Muir are good examples.”
“With Caleb Ewan in Milan-San and Florian Vermeersch in Paris-Roubaix, we achieved two podium places at the monuments. We had 12 wins, eight of which were in the WorldTour. I also enjoyed the offensive racing style. But you don’t get UCI points with that. This system is not in our way of racing. However, this is our DNA. I don’t want to change that.”
Take the points
It’s been rumored for a while that Lotto Soudal wanted to play his runner and captain Caleb Ewan more this year in smaller competitions, in order to grab more points – much needed – and avoid the prospect of relegation. After all, the team is in imminent danger. At the end of 2022, the rankings for the past three years will be established and only the top eighteen teams will retain their WorldTour status.
“I am confident we will finish in the top eighteen. Without changing Caleb’s programme,” says Lilange. It only adds Gent-Wevelgem and De Panne compared to last year. These are not smaller games. But we will get our points. Caleb’s sprint sprint train has been reinforced. Our guys are coming. I also expect something from Arnaud De Lie. Vector (Campinarts, red) has also been added. We will continue the aggressive race. without focusing too much on those points. It will come naturally.”
Find a new sponsor
According to Lelangue, the search for a new sponsor for the second name also passes without any form of tension. “The fact that we learned early on that Soudal is leaving gives us an advantage. This creates opportunities for us and for any partners. Now there are many contacts and they are positive. A lot of companies want to identify with our team and have the same values. Our team is exciting enough. Moreover “With the National Lottery, we have a consistent major sponsor, and they have a long history of cycling. But if you ask if he’s already signed? No, not yet. We still have time.”
Lelang also indicated that Philip Gilbert will be leaving at the end of this year. He sees a double role for his figurehead. But he’s also important to the team as a mentor. A natural leader. When he speaks everyone listens. The team grows. Will he continue to ride the Tour? If his condition is improper. He is just.”
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