The exodus of riders from Lotto Soudal under Paul De Geyter’s short-lived tenure as general manager seemed to focus on one department of the team in particular, namely André Greipel and the men who followed him from Highroad in 2011 and 2012.
They will go their separate ways in 2019, with Greipel moving to Fortuneo-Oscaro, Marcel Sieberg to Bahrain-Merida and Lars Bak to Dimension Data, but Adam Hansen, the other Highroad alumnus on the roster, will remain with Lotto Soudal next year.
"This year was a bit of a surprise. I don't know if it was that the riders really wanted to go but that's what happened. People had better offers on different teams so they took them. You have to respect that," Hansen told Cyclingnews at the Tour of Guangxi this week.
The 37-year-old Hansen's tenure at Lotto Soudal has been marked by stage victories at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, as well as his remarkable record of completing 20 consecutive Grand Tours between the 2011 and 2018. After being a mainstay of Greipel’s lead-out train, he will remain at Lotto Soudal to help smooth the arrival of the German’s replacement, Caleb Ewan.
"I’ve been in the team for a very long time, since 2011, and Caleb Ewan is coming so I’m going to be used there to help him in the lead-out," Hansen said. "They wanted to keep a bit of experience in the team so I’m staying. I feel comfortable on the team and it’s a nice team."
Ewan arrives from Mitchelton-Scott, where he endured a frustrating 2018 season marked by his exclusion from the Tour de France roster after he declined to sign a new contract with the team. Roger Kluge will follow Ewan from Mitchelton-Scott, while Adam Blythe has also been signed to buttress the lead-out effort, while Hansen will be something of a conduit to the house style at Lotto Soudal.
Assembling a lead-out train on a new team – even with some elements already in place – is never a straightforward task, as Marcel Kittel discovered this season on moving from Quick-Step Floors to Katusha-Alpecin, but Hansen is confident his fellow countryman Ewan can hit his stride early at Lotto Soudal. Ewan may have felt increasingly like an after-thought amid Mitchelton-Scott’s increasing focus on the Yates brothers, but he will be in a position of outright leadership on his new team.
"I don’t think Caleb will have the difficulty that Kittel had, that’s for sure," Hansen said. "Caleb is a great sprinter like Kittel. But Caleb didn’t really have the full team support which he will have at Lotto Soudal. The team’s got great experience of this. I think he’ll do very well on our team."
Greipel’s self-effacing leadership style came almost to define Lotto Soudal during his time at the team. The arrival of a new sprinter inevitably alters the eco-system of the team, but Hansen does not anticipate any teething problems.
"I don’t know Caleb so well but from what I do know of him, he knows what he wants and he’s very straight with the team, saying the things he wants, the set-up he wants and the races he wants to do," Hansen said. "It’s going to be interesting working with him. I think he knows his stuff. He’s still very young. But I think he’ll blend in fine with the team."
Earlier this month, Lotto Soudal announced that it had parted company with Paul De Geyter as general manager just a year after hiring him for the newly-created role. Former BMC manager John Lelangue has been confirmed as De Geyter’s replacement, while Marc Sergeant remains in the role of team manager, a position he has held since 2003.
"It’s going to be a big change from this season because we had Paul De Geyter and he did most of the contracts, but from what I’ve heard, John is doing more the sponsors and the team management, and the sporting role will fall back on Marc Sergeant," Hansen said. “So I think things will go back to how they were in the past. I don’t know John personally, but I’ve heard very good things about him. We’ll see how it goes."