Van Wilder takes legal action in bid to leave Team DSM

Belgian Ilan Van Wilder of Team DSM at the start of the sixth stage of the 73rd edition of the Criterium du Dauphine cycling race 1675 Km from LoriolsurDrome to Le SappeyenChartreuse France Friday 04 June 2021 BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
Ilan Van Wilder at this year's Critérium du Dauphiné (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Ilan Van Wilder and Team DSM will meet in court as the young Belgian rider resorts to legal action to try and force a move away.

Van Wilder turned professional with the German-registered team in 2020 on a three-year contract, but has grown dissatisfied and expressed his desire for an early exit, notably when he was left out of the squad for this year's Vuelta a España.

The team have repeatedly insisted they will not release the 21-year-old from the final year of his contract, and the rider has now lodged a case at an employment tribunal to try and break the agreement.

News of the case was first reported by Wielerflits (opens in new tab), with Team DSM confirming it to Cyclingnews in a statement that accuses their rider of discrediting the team in a 'trial by media'.

"We are aware that one of our riders, Ilan Van Wilder and his agent have chosen to take legal action to break Ilan's employment contract with Team DSM to enable a move to another team before the end date of the existing agreement," read the statement.

"We are naturally very disappointed by these proceedings. Rather than taking the correct approach - actually requesting the opportunity of a transfer, as Ilan's agent should have advised - a discrediting trial by media approach towards the team and those who work on a daily basis with Ilan, was instead favoured in order to force an early termination of the agreement. 

"Let it be clear that said colleagues have absolutely fulfilled their responsibilities in working with Ilan, which include focusing on his ability to work with team members and honestly live up to his commitments, including race tactics."

The case will soon be heard at an employment tribunal in Overijssel in the Netherlands, with a verdict expected in mid-November. 

Van Wilder is the latest in a long line of riders who have sought to break their contracts to leave Team DSM, formerly Team Sunweb. The likes of Tom Dumoulin, Marcel Kittel, Warren Barguil, and Michael Matthews have all made early exits in recent years, and only this week reports emerged that Tiesj Benoot is himself looking to move this winter. 

Van Wilder reportedly clashed with Team DSM management over equipment issues earlier this year, and then over his contribution to the team, with coach Rudi Kemna saying: "Ilan is a talent, but he still has major steps to take in the 'co-operation' factor."

After limited appearances in 2020 due to the pandemic, Van Wilder impressed in 2021, with top-fives in time trials at the Tour de Romandie, Critérium du Dauphiné, and Belgian championships. He was in line to ride the Vuelta a España, which would have effectively been his Grand Tour debut after he was forced to abandon on the opening day of last year's race, but was ultimately left out of the squad. 

"Tomorrow was supposed to be my Grand Tour debut but that has been taken away from me... I can't explain how disappointed I am and how down I have been feeling for weeks," Van Wilder wrote on social media at the time. 

"One thing is for sure: I will try to get my pleasure and motivation back of riding a bike and hopefully I can do this from next year in a fresh new environment. I'll be back."

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Patrick Fletcher
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2022 he has been Deputy Editor, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.