The Belgian Lotto Soudal team and General Manager Paul De Geyter have parted ways. De Geyter was hired less than a year ago, but his contract has been terminated by 'mutual agreement' after a period of consultation.
The team announced the news on Monday evening, just hours after Quick-Step Floors announced that they had found a new title sponsor for 2019. Lotto Soudal's apparent plan to bury their own news in Belgium came in the form of a short press release.
"The Lotto Soudal WorldTour team and Paul De Geyter, the team's general manager, have decided, following consultation, to put an end to their collaboration," the press release read. "By mutual agreement the two parties came to the conclusion that the perspective on the future strategy of the team differed too much from each other to continue the partnership. The Lotto Soudal WorldTour team wants to thank Paul De Geyter for the cooperation of the past cycling season.
"The Lotto Soudal WorldTour team wishes him all the best in his further career. Paul De Geyter wishes the team every success."
De Geyter was brought in as Lotto Soudal's manager in January. The move saw Marc Sergeant slip into a purely sporting role and put De Geyter at the centre of the entire operation.
Before the move, De Geyter was one of the most prominent and successful rider agents in Europe. He worked with a flurry of high-profile stars and would typically sign neo-professionals without taking a commission on the basis that he would only take a cut if and when they signed their second deals. He was regarded as one of the best in the business.
However, this year De Geyter ruffled feathers within the team. He was branded a liar by Andre Greipel in an interview with Cyclingnews during the Tour de Suisse, and was criticised for the manner in which the German sprinter was treated during unsuccessful contract negotiations.
In June, Cyclingnews spoke to one source within the team and were told that one rider had called Sergeant and expressly told him: "Marc you have to watch out because the family is falling apart. Paul is looking at this as a business, but it isn't a business."
De Geyter did sign Caleb Ewan from Mitchelton-Scott as a replacement for Greipel, and the team will structure their leadout around the Australian in 2019.
The drawn-out saga over the Ewan transfer was part of the reason the Australian missed the Tour de France in the summer, and he has not raced since the Tour of Britain in September, where he won the final stage in London.
The team were interested in Ben Swift, currently at UAE Team Emirates, but the British rider turned down the opportunity to sign for Lotto and instead is set to return to Team Sky. With the team looking for a British rider, a move was made for Adam Blythe, who rode for the team between 2010 and 2011. Blythe also rode with Ewan at Mitchelton-Scott in 2015, and the two riders have a strong friendship.
Riders and staff were informed of De Geyter's departure just hours before the press release was sent to the general public. Some riders found out the news from the media. However, there were signs of a strained relationship between De Geyter and the team's hierarchy and board as early as last week.
De Geyter was absent from the team's get together last week in Belgium, despite all of the 2019 roster - including Ewan and Blythe in attendance. Presentations and talks were given by Soudal and Lotto and several other sponsors. Riders and staff were not given an explanation as to why De Geyter was absent from the event.
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