Lelangue faces an important year at Lotto Soudal: "Don't worry about the future"

John Lelangue is not worried about Lotto Soudal’s future. That last sponsor will disappear at the end of 2022. “But I am confident that we will find a new main sponsor,” he says on Saturday at the media day of his team in Altea, Spain. “With Lotto we have a reliable partner at our side, which is a very important aspect to convince other sponsors. No, at the moment we don’t have a signature under a new contract yet, but I am confident that this will be sorted out.”

Maarten DelvauxSource: BELGIAN

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With 12 victories in 2021, including eight in the WorldTour, Lotto Soudal did not win too often last year. Team manager Lelangue is the first to acknowledge that 2021 was not great. “We had some very nice victories in the WorldTour, including with Caleb Ewan, but we also had a lot of bad luck. Not only with Ewan, but also with other guys that we had to miss for a long time due to falls and injuries. Hopefully we will have a little more luck on our side in 2022. I can already feel that there is a lot of good will in this group, that the ‘vibe’ is right. Everyone is highly motivated for 2022.”

Lotto Soudal had five inbound and six outbound transfers. Victor Campenaerts is the big reinforcement. The team did see John Degenkolb leave, as well as Tosh Van Der Sande, Kobe Goossens and Gerben Thijssen as the main names among the leavers. The team has 27 riders in 2022: 17 Belgians and 10 foreigners. This makes her the smallest core of all WorldTour teams. “But that shouldn’t be a problem, we’re not going to run a program on three fronts all the time,” said Lelangue. “In addition, a few guys will make the switch in the summer.”

DNA

The WorldTour licenses will be renewed at the end of this season, the team currently does not occupy a good ranking. “But I’m not worried,” said Lelangue. “We are not going to change our DNA to suddenly want to take points everywhere in small races. We want to continue to race offensively, show ourselves, fight for what we are worth. If we know less bad luck, those points will come naturally. I am confident that we will be part of the WorldTour again next year and I am not afraid of relegation.”

The team’s focus remains on the one-day races and winning stages in Grand Tours. “And developing young talents”, says Lelangue. “That is our job and we are not going to change that. Of course we would like to win a Monument. Don’t forget that we were close twice last year (second in Milan-Sanremo, second in Paris-Roubaix, ed.), but it is certainly not easy. You can dream of it, but you also have to be realistic. We have a strong team in the spring with Victor Campenaerts, Florian Vermeersch and Brent Van Moer, but we don’t put any pressure on them. We know that it is not obvious racing against Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel or other big names. On the other hand, who would have ever thought that Alberto Bettiol would win the Tour? So you should always be hopeful.”

Sexy enough for new sponsors

Finally, you also need money. Soudal will leave in 2023. Lelangue therefore has to find a new main sponsor. “I have every confidence in it,” he concludes. “There have been many conversations. I feel that many companies find our project interesting, that they have the same values ​​as us and are interested. However, nothing has been signed yet. It is a huge asset that we have Lotto as a partner, a long-term cooperation, a stable partner and potential new sponsors consider that of great importance. So I can see that going well. Are we sexy enough for new sponsors? I think so anyway. I am very optimistic about finding a new main sponsor.”

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