John Lelangue has officially begun his new job as Lotto Soudal's general manager. The team announced that the Belgian started in his new role on November 15, and the 48-year-old has set forth his plans for the coming few months.
He replaces former team manager Paul De Geyter, who left the team in October "by mutual agreement" after just a season heading Lotto Soudal.
The incoming Lelangue has identified four 'pillars' to the team, which will be where he focuses his energy: the structural/organisational aspect, the team's Belgian identity, its relationship with its partners/sponsors, and the sporting side of things, which he says will principally remain sports manager Marc Sergeant's domain.
"I've never worked with Marc before, but we've known each other for several years," Lelangue said in a press release. "I'm therefore very satisfied that I'll be able to work well with someone who has such an impressive record.
"It goes without saying that Marc will be the one who takes the sporting decisions," he continued. "Of course, we'll consult with each other, but, within Lotto Soudal, Marc is best placed to decide on that topic.
"Marc has a team of directeurs sportifs around him who each have their own responsibilities, and Kevin De Weert will join that team. As a performance manager, he'll have some specific tasks. With his background, he'll certainly be a major asset to Lotto Soudal," Lelangue said of the incoming De Weert, who left his position as the Belgian men's national road coach after the world championships to join the team.
"There's obviously already a solid structure within Lotto Soudal since it's an organisation that has been competing at WorldTour level for several years now," Lelangue said of what he calls the 'structural and organisational aspect' of the team.
"But, together with all the team members at Lotto Soudal, I want to take a closer look at each aspect of the team: training, medical supervision, nutrition, material. In that way, we can determine where there is still margin for improvement with the existing resources. In that sense, obviously through dialogue, we can optimise the structure."
Lelangue attaches particular importance to the team's Belgian identity, which he wants to ensure remains strong across the men's WorldTour squad, the ladies squad and the under-23 squad.
"Half of the Belgian cyclists within the [men's WorldTour] Lotto Soudal line-up have been trained via the U23 team," he said. "Women's cycling is also booming. Therefore, we'll continue to commit to those two entities in the years to come. Our team has existed for 35 years, and Belgium is the 'cradle' of cycling."
Lelangue clearly can't wait to get his teeth into the new role, having worked in managerial roles at the Phonak and BMC teams in the past, as well as for the UCI and Tour de France organisers ASO.
"For me, this marks a return to Belgium after some foreign adventures. But if the main Belgian WorldTour team asks you to become their General Manager, you're certainly going to be flattered," he said, conveniently forgetting the team's big Belgian rival, Quick-Step Floors.
Lotto Soudal's principal signing for 2019 is Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan, who joins from Mitchelton-Scott. The 24-year-old effectively replaces veteran sprinter André Greipel, who leaves Sergeant and his teammates of eight seasons to join French Pro Continental outfit Fortuneo-Samsic.
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