Lotto-Ridley's management is very much a Belgian team, despite the presence of a number of foreign riders. “Our project will remain Belgian,” sports director Marc Sergeant said. “But if you want to count in the World Tour, you also need foreigners. It's that simple at the top of the game.”
Lotto split with Omega Pharma earlier this year with the stated purpose of establishing a Belgian team, especially hoping to encourage young Belgian riders. “That's still the case,” new administrative manager Bill Olivier told Sportswereld. “With Tosh Van der Sande, Gaetan Bille, Jonas Vangenechten, Sander Cordeel and Dennis Vanendert there are five Belgian neo-pros on the team. It's not that we are ignoring the youth. On the contrary, young riders remain key for Lotto- Ridley.”
Andre Greipel is the team's most prominent non-Belgian.The German this year had eight victories, including a stage at the Tour de France, more than anyone on the team other than Philippe Gilbert, who is leaving. The team's most recent signing was Iranian Mehdi Sohrabi,who won the 2011 Asia Tour title.
A one-hundred percent Belgian team “is impossible in the current international cycling scene,” Sergeant said. For some of the necessities, “you have to go abroad. The man with the most points was Andre Greipel and he was crucial to the future of the team, like the points of Sohrabi.”
One-third of the riders in the 27 man squad for 2012 are non-Belgian. Not all of the foreigners were fired for their points “But if we want to bring our Belgian riders to the top, you must also add a few foreigners who can help you realize the sporting goals,” Olivier said.
“Moreover, the National Lottery has never claimed that Lotto would be an exclusive Belgian team,” he continued. With 18 of the 27 riders being Belgian, “we did very well and we keep the image of a Belgian team. We are a Belgian team. "
The team captains remain – mostly – Belgian. “In the spring races, we believe strongly in Jürgen Roelandts and I think the interplay between him and Greipel can give good results,” Sergeant said. “For the grand tours, we will draw on our Belgian riders. Many of them are planned to help Jurgen Van den Broeck and Jelle Vanendert in the mountains.”
With 27 places filled, the team could still hire a few more riders, with the names of Belgians Gianni Meersman and Leif Hoste being mentioned. But the team is holding a place free for another young rider “during the course of the season,” according to Olivier. “Furthermore, we have a financial ceiling.”
As regards Meersman and Hoste, “there are negotiations underway, but contrary to what is claimed, they are not freely available. If that were the case, we would be happy with them. But for now that's not the question.”
Lotto-Ridley for 2012:
Riders from the 2011 Omega Pharma-Lotto team: (Belgian unless otherwise indicated)
Bart De Clercq, Francis De Greef, Jens Debusschere, Kenny Dehaes, Gert Dockx, André Greipel, (Ger), Adam Hansen (Aus), Olivier Kaisen, Maarten Neyens, Vicente Reynes (Spa), Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg (Ger), Jurgen Van den Broeck, Jurgen Vandewalle, Jelle Vanendert, and Frederik Willems
New signings: Lars Bak (Den), Gaetan Bille, Brian Bulgac (Ned), Sander Cordeel, Greg Henderson (Nze), Frederique Robert, Mehdi Sohrabi (Irn), Tosh Van der Sande, Dennis Vanendert, Jonas Vangenechten and Joost Van Leijen (Ned)