Lotto Soudal boss leaves as relegation looms over Belgian team

John Lelangue has been in charge of the squad for four years

Lotto Soudal
(Image credit: Getty Images )

Lotto Soudal's general manager is set to step down at the end of this season, as relegation looms over the Belgian WorldTour squad.

On Thursday, it was reported in Belgian media that John Lelangue would be leaving Lotto, which was later confirmed by the team and by the Belgian himself. He has been at the team since 2018, during which time there has been a change at the top of the organisation, with a high turnover of riders and staff.

Sporza reported that the 51-year-old chose to leave, with Jannie Haek, the CEO of the Belgian National Lottery, who are one of the backers of the team, stating: “It was a decision by John Lelangue to leave the team, but we do it on the best of terms.”

The team are almost definitely going to be relegated from the WorldTour at the end of the season, with few races still remaining in which UCI points can still be picked up. 

While Lotto sit in 19th on the UCI's points table, they can take comfort from the fact that they have scored enough points to be invited to WorldTour events next year, unlike their rivals, Israel-Premier Tech. However, this will apply for just next season.

A statement from the team on Thursday said the decision had been made by "mutual agreement", and that a successor had not been appointed yet. There has been speculation that it might be Axel Merckx, who currently runs the Hagens Berman Axeon development team.

"The partnership between Lotto Soudal and CEO John Lelangue will end at the end of this season," the statement reads. "That decision was made by mutual agreement." 

"John Lelangue joined Lotto Soudal in 2019. Under his leadership, the choice was explicitly made for youth and several young talents managed to break through."

"With 25 victories, 2022 was the most successful of his period with the team. Lotto Soudal therefore wishes to thank John Lelangue for all his work and the way in which he has led the team."

"In mutual consultation, it was therefore decided to part ways after this season. A successor has not yet been appointed."

While this year has been much more successful for the team, it has been too little too late for Lotto, as they have been leapfrogged in the battle to remain in the WorldTour by others.

Lotto Soudal

(Image credit: Getty Images )

Earlier this season, Lelangue told Cycling Weekly that he would change jobs if he had to race defensively in order to gain points.

"At the end, our first aim is to take pleasure, to enjoy racing. To race with bravery, and to win races. At the end of the season, we will see."

Asked if other teams are already racing defensively, he says: "Honestly, yes, it is like this. But if I'm doing this, I will not take pleasure in racing, and I would prefer to change jobs."

On Thursday, the Belgian thanked the team for their support in a series of posts on social media.

"A few weeks ago, at the end of the Tour de France, I took the decision to step down from my role as CEO of Lotto Soudal at the end of the season," he said. "I informed the Board in August and I want to sincerely thanks for their confidence and support during those 4 years.

"I will be fully concentrate on running this team until the end of the season and I already took my decision of my future which will still be in cycling. I want to thanks my riders, staff, management for their work engagement during those last years. You are the best.

"I am wishing all the best to the Lotto Soudal teams (U23 and Ladies) and it was an honour to be part of this journey. I am really excited with the new challenge I accepted and we will be communicating soon about it. See you on the races."

Lelangue took over from Paul De Geyter, who had spent less than a year at the helm of the Belgian team. Previous boss Marc Sergeant was pushed into a less influential role before leaving altogether at the end of 2021, alongside fellow stalwart Herman Frison.

There have been hits like Arnaud De Lie, who has won nine races this year, but older signings like John Degenkolb and Philippe Gilbert failed to make an impact in their time at the squad.

At the end of this season, long-term co-title sponsor Soudal will switch to rival Belgian team Quick Step, with a replacement found in cloud telecoms company Dstny until 2024.

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