Henk Vogels played a huge role in the success of the V Australia juggernaut. Under his watch the Australian continental team claimed 245 race wins. But the team's ambitions to join the top tier of cycling came crashing down last year, taking the riders' and staff's careers with them.
Vogels has resisted going public with his tale of how the team's collapse nearly ruined him on the basis that he wanted desperately to call time on this tumultuous period of his life, but now is ready for his story to be heard. It should be noted that Cyclingnews has contacted Pegasus Racing boss Chris White on numerous occasions over the past few weeks but he has not returned our calls or messages.
Still owed tens of thousands of dollars, Vogels' likely last chance to recoup any funds from the team as part of the UCI bank guarantee vanished earlier this month when he was removed as a creditor to the claim.
On the eighth of this month, Cycling Australia released the bank guarantee from the 2011 season back to Pegasus Racing. Cycling Australia relaxed the standard March 31 deadline to release the funds on the basis that there was an on-going dispute between White and a creditor – Vogels. When Cyclingnews broke the story of Cycling Australia withholding the funds, Vogels had not wished to be named.
"I was in serious financial difficulty for a long, long time," he told Cyclingnews. "It was only through the help of Jonathon Noonan who gave me a job with BikeSportz directly without an application and Heiko Salzwedel my old coach [now general manager of RusVelo who has employed Vogels as a sports director], I don't think I would have got through it all.
"Chris White left me for dead."
Vogels' dispute with White began mid-September of last year. He had not been paid since August 2011, leaving him out of pocket three months' worth of wages plus, holiday pay and sick leave for the three years he was employed. As a side agreement to his 2011 contract, Vogels was to be paid with 10 Fuji Bikes having secured the manufacturer as a sponsor when the team was struggling to get back on its feet following the UCI's rejections of its applications for both UCI ProTour and ProConti licences. Their retail value is approximately $50,000.
"He was given 55 bikes by Fuji free of charge. We wrote out an agreement that he would give me 10 bikes after October 2011," Vogels explained.
When it came time for White to hand over the bikes, Vogels alleges that they were not forthcoming because he had not agreed to sign a letter saying that he would not sue White.
"I had refused to sign that because he had stopped paying me," Vogels told Cyclingnews.
While travelling with the team to the Tour of Geelong in August last year, Vogels had been at dinner and afterwards was the victim of a vicious assault, but cannot recall who hit him.
"I lost 50 percent of my hearing in my right ear because I was beaten to a pulp and woke up in hospital," Vogels revealed. He would spend a fortnight in hospital. "I couldn't walk for three weeks. I had a medical certificate for a month and he was supposed to pay me but said I'd exhausted all my sick days."
Vogels claims that not once over his time as an employee of Pegasus Racing had he taken a sick day. Vogels was not able to claim medical costs via the team's insurance policy with the UCI because he had "had a few drinks with dinner" on the night of his assault.
His other option of claiming through workers' compensation law was not available as White did not have a current policy. A dispute over the date when Vogels ceased work with Pegasus Racing then resulted in him not being able to claim government unemployment benefits.
"Fair Work Australia has ruled against me, saying that he's done nothing wrong," said Vogels. "That's still in dispute and I'm in the process of working out whether I take him to small claims court."
The Pegasus Racing bank guarantee, believed to be in the order of around $30,000, was an option for Vogels to recover some of his owed funds. White raised an objection to Vogels’ claims, as a result Cycling Australia recommended for the parties to seek legal advice. Vogels told Cyclingnews that he chose not to do so in the hope that White would at least come through on the bikes, a day later Pegasus Racing had gone into voluntary administration.
Cyclingnews can reveal that V Australia team's holding company Pegasus Racing Pty Ltd, which employed Vogels as sports director from 2009 until September 2011, went into voluntary administration on September 5, 2012.
This move followed a court action by former company director Brett Roland, who still owns a 34 percent stake in Pegasus Racing, to sue CEO Chris White on behalf of himself and Pegasus Racing under Section 236 of the Commonwealth Corporations Act. He alleges that White has breached the obligation to use his powers and duties as an officer of Pegasus Racing in that:
- He has failed to act in good faith and in the best interests of the corporation; and / or
- He has not acted for a proper purpose and has instead preferred his own interests to that of Roland or Pegasus Racing.
The first meeting of creditors took place on September 13, the day before White was due in court in response to Roland's claims. Vogels was one of five former staff members of Pegasus Racing listed as a creditor in last Thursday's meeting however he was disappointed to have his claims dismissed on the basis that he had been unsuccessful with both Fair Work Australia and Cycling Australia.
"I can substantiate everything that I'm saying. Everything," Vogels said having moved on with his career and life, fullfilled by his work with BikeSportz, RusVelo, private coaching and media commitments.
The administrator's report to the creditors is due October 3, 2012.
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.