Lucien Van Impe, the last Belgian winner of the Tour de France, will become sport director at a newly formed Belgian Continental team, the Willems Veranda Cyclingteam, he announced yesterday. The team has not yet signed any riders, but hopes to be able to announce 16 names by mid-December. It will have a budget of about 500,000 Euros.
Willems Veranda is a metal construction firm specializing in porches and conservatories owned by Luc Willems. "I am stepping with my company into a world unknown to me," Willems told Belgian HLN. "We signed a contract for one season, but it is possible that after a positive evaluation, it could be for two or three years. With Lucien van Impe we have the ideal man to take on our project."
Van Impe is looking forward to the new squad. "I am happy to accept this challenge to help set up a new team. I certainly won't be lacking in motivation. I want to establish a strong team. It will be a combination of eight young riders with an equal number of professionals. The pond from which I can fish is quite big. There is still a large number of guys without contracts. Well, we can put them back on their bikes. Naturally some names are already circulating in my head, but as long as there is nothing official, I won't say anything more."
Van Impe, 61, won the Tour de France in 1976. He rode professionally from 1969 to 1987. The Belgian was the outstanding climber of his era and won the mountain jersey at the Tour six times. He most recently served as a team manager at Unibet.com.