Cyclo-cross world champion Wout van Aert's lawyer, Walter Van Steenbrugge, told Belgian sports website sporza.be on Monday that he believes that cycling's governing body, the UCI, will give his client permission to race the 2019 road season.
Van Aert unilaterally terminated his contract with Sniper Cycling – the owning company of the Veranda's Willems-Crelan team, with whom Van Aert raced on the road this season – on September 17 this year.
The 24-year-old Belgian had made clear his unhappiness at the news that his team – who he was originally also contracted to ride for in 2019 – was set to merge with the Dutch Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij outfit for next season. Van Aert said in August that he'd never been consulted about the merger, and that "enough is enough".
Van Aert already has a contract to ride with WorldTour team Jumbo – the current LottoNL-Jumbo outfit – for 2020, but with no road team for 2019, having terminated his contract, Team Jumbo are allegedly interested in taking Van Aert on a year earlier than planned.
Sniper Cycling, meanwhile, are asking for compensation – of €500,000, according to Het Laatste Nieuws – in return for Van Aert having terminated his contract, which in turn could block the Belgian from signing with a new team if an agreement cannot be reached.
"Wout has broken his contract through 'termination for cause'. There can be no question of compensation," Van Aert's manager, Jef Van den Bosch, told Het Laatste Nieuws on Monday.
Earlier this month, Sniper Cycling's lawyer, Rudi Desmet, told the same newspaper: "We will not agree [to Van Aert riding for a new road team] if we do not receive financial compensation from Wout van Aert first. Because of Van Aert's breach of contract, we lost sponsors."
Van Aert is currently riding the 2018/19 cyclo-cross season as a 'one-man off-road team' for Cibel-Cebon, who he will race for until the end of the cyclo-cross season, after approval from the UCI, having begun the 'cross season in September in a logo-free world champion's jersey.
"In the case of a cyclist's transfer, the old team, the new team and the rider must all be in agreement," Van Aert's lawyer, Van Steenbrugge, told sporza.be on Monday, "and Sniper Cycling has made it clear that it does not want to cooperate because it's challenging the termination for cause [by Van Aert of his contract].
"We have presented this to the UCI and I assume that they'll give us the green light again, just like they did when we asked to be allowed to ride the cyclo-cross season," said Van Steenbrugge. "I expect to get an answer this month. There's still time, because the road season only starts in January.
"There was no way of being able to work with that team [Sniper Cycling's Veranda's Willems-Crelan] in a normal way, and no employee or worker would want to cooperate with the employer in those circumstances," he said.
"And Van Aert is no longer bound by his former contract of employment, which means that Van Aert cannot be prevented from doing his job, which is why we think the UCI will agree."
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