UCI give Van Aert permission to look for new team

Wout van Aert has received clearance from the UCI to sign for a new road team, according to Belgian news agency Belga.

Van Aert's lawyer Walter Van Steenbrugge told Belga on Thursday lunchtime that the UCI had given the green light for Van Aert to negotiate a deal with a new team after terminating his contract with Veranda's Willems-Crelan in September.

The decision from the governing body paves the way for the cyclo-cross world champion, who enjoyed a highly impressive debut Classics campaign this spring, to join LottoNL-Jumbo from the start of 2019. He had already agreed to join the Dutch WorldTour outfit on a three-year deal from 2020, and, after the fall-out with Veranda's Willem's-Crelan, the team's management were keen to bring him on board from this coming January.

Van Steenbrugge said that the permission granted by the UCI was on the condition that Van Aert signs a contract before December 31.

The possible early move to LottoNL-Jumbo had been complicated by a bitter legal dispute between Van Aert and Sniper Cycling, the holding company that owns the Veranda’s Willems-Crelan team. A lawsuit was quickly filed against the 24-year-old for what the team saw as breach of his contract, which ran until the end of 2019.

Van Aert, however, was unhappy with the way he was treated as the team attempted to negotiate mergers with other Pro Continental teams, firstly with Aqua Blue Sport and then, successfully, with Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij. He ‘unilaterally terminated’ his contract in September and began to ride cyclo-cross events as an independent rider.

The case reached the Belgian courts last month but the timeframe suggests it could drag on for nearly a year. In the meantime, Sniper Cycling have been attempting to block Van Aert from signing a new deal on the road. However, the rider has been adamant in refusing to pay the compensation fee demanded by the team, and his lawyer was convinced that the UCI would step in and allow him to sign for a new team with a clean break from Sniper. That confirmation arrived on Thursday.

"Today we received the official message from the UCI legal unit that Wout van Aert can negotiate freely with a new employer, provided that the transfer is completed before 31 December 2018,” said Van Steenbrugge. "That means that from now on Wout can start negotiations with a new team so that he can get to the start of the upcoming cycling season on the road

"Wout is very relieved after a difficult period with a lot of unrest about his person."

Neither the UCI nor Sniper Cycling have responded to requests for comment from Cyclingnews.

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