First the facts. André Greipel is 35 and out of contract at the end of the season. Caleb Ewan is 11 years Greipel’s junior and also out of contract at the end of the year. Lotto Soudal have a ready-made, but admittedly aging, lead-out train and have been linked to the Australian since the end of 2017. That speculation seemed to subside when Mitchelton-Scott announced in January that Ewan would make his Tour de France debut this year, with the news appearing to act as a sweetener to encourage the Australian to re-sign with the team and wade off interest from other parties.
In recent days, however, the Lotto Soudal rumours have resurfaced and even caught Mitchelton-Scott by surprise. Reports have circulated that Greipel has been offered a one-year extension to stay at Lotto but on less money and with the key proviso that he will no longer be the team’s number one sprint star. Those reports have been denied by Lotto Soudal’s general manager Paul De Geyter, who has stressed to Cyclingnews that negotiations with the German are ongoing and will ramp up on Friday when he meets with Greipel at the Tour de Suisse.
“We have a meeting on Friday and I’m sure that next season is going to on the agenda. I’m sorry to say that that’s a bad source,” De Geyter told Cyclingnews in relation to reports of a one-year deal having been offered.
“I’ve heard that we’ve offered him a one-year deal but that’s not correct. That source needs to check his information better. I’ve understood that André wants to have a two-year contract. Sure, we want to keep him and have him on the team and I hope that we find an agreement.”
The crux of the situation, however, depends on how much Lotto Soudal want Ewan, if indeed he has not already signed for them. With no deal in place yet with Mitchelton, the topic of Tour de France selection also remains open. De Geyter admitted to talking to Ewan’s agent and left the door open for having both riders on his team in 2019. His agent, who also represented Cadel Evans, could not be reached.
“There are two things. I need to think about the team for the upcoming years,” De Geyter also told Cyclingnews. “I hope that André will stay on the level that he can be the number one sprinter but I wouldn’t be a good manager if I didn’t think that maybe if there was a problem that we had an alternative. I’d love him to stay as the number one sprinter for sure. We still need to talk figures. I’ve not offered him a deal at all, we’ve just talked about the future and how we see things. We had a really good talk around April and we both discussed the future but we decided to take some time and we’re going to meet in Switzerland.
“Everyone is talking about Ewan. If you asked me if I would be interested, then we’re not different to any of the top teams. He’s one of the top sprinters. I’ve not offered him a contract and there’s no agreement in with him or his agent. Not yet. I’ve spoken with his agent, I’m not going to deny that.
“Both are two nice people. I don’t see there being a problem of having two nice personalities. I don’t see that has a problem. First I want to talk to André and then we see where we get.”
Of course, contracts cannot be signed before the UCI’s August 1 deadline but that red tape is nothing if not irrelevant. Contracts are signed earlier and earlier and in some cases it’s the agents who sign agreements with teams on their riders’ behalf.
Mitchelton are in the midst of re-signing the Yates brothers, but they already have the bulk of Ewan’s lead-out signed up for next year. The sprinter is set to compete at the Tour of Slovenia later this week, using the race as his final tune-up for the Tour de France. His current team would not comment on the situation and there is no indication that his Tour spot is under threat, but the current speculation is hardly what the team would have wished for this close to July.
Mitchelton Scott’s Matt White travelled to Slovenia on Tuesday having previously been at the Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse. He told Cyclingnews that, “We are in Slovenia to win stages with Caleb and continue the team’s great season. The Tour de France is still far away and final decision on the final eight will be made in the next week or so. We have some great depth and some tough decisions will need to be made.”
Cyclingnews Films' second production CRESCENDO is available to buy or rent on Vimeo.