There were already whispers of Paul De Geyter’s imminent departure from Lotto Soudal at the team’s 2019 pre-season get-together at the start of October. The autumn event, held at Soudal’s factory in Turnhout, Belgium, was a chance for next year’s roster to mingle, for sponsors to introduce themselves, and for staff and riders who have not seen each other since the start of the year to reacquaint themselves with one another. Everyone from the Lotto Soudal set-up was present but for one person: the team’s general manager, Paul De Geyter.
By the time the day had concluded, and the likes of Caleb Ewan and Adam Blythe had met their new squad, there was still no sign of De Geyter. Members of the staff’s management and several sponsors had taken to the floor to speak but the riders were completely in the dark with regards to their team boss.
Nothing was said, but something was certainly up.
Less than 24 hours later and another Lotto Soudal press release landed, this time informing the media that John Leglangue would be returning from the wilderness to fill De Geyter’s still-warm chair.
Cyclingnews has learned that the board were hugely disappointed with the sponsor search and by August their patience had reached breaking point when they found out that Wout van Aert, a rider they had agreed to sanction a transfer move for, had not been sent a contract offer by the team’s management. According to a source close to the negotiations, the board spoke to Van Aert’s agent three times over a three-day period to check if a contract had been sent. On each occasion they were told ‘no’, and by the time a contract had arrived it was too late. Van Aert would eventually sign for LottoNL Jumbo for 2020.
Missing out on Van Aert on its own was not the issue; eighteen other WorldTour teams would have loved to have signed the talented all-rounder, and only LottoNL were able to succeed. However, at Lotto the board control the purse strings and, after sanctioning the budget increase to accommodate Van Aert, they were dismayed that a contract was not produced in a timely fashion.
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