After insisting she would not ride for the team again, Lorena Wiebes will ride for Parkhotel-Valkenburg in the coming season. After a stellar 2019 the 20-year-old had hoped to leave the Dutch team, but with a contract valid until the end of 2021, the team objected.
However, with the case set for court earlier this month, an 11th hour compromise has been found which will see the prolific sprinter stay with the team at least until June 1.
“I’m really happy because we have now clarity in what is going on,” Parkhotel-Valkenburg team manager Esra Tromp told Cycling Weekly. “We are going to work until the June 1 and then we will see what is going to happen. Lorena said that she is going to ride for the team and work this out professionally and we will do that as well.”
Wiebes only started racing four years ago and, after taking four wins in her first senior season, signed a three-year deal with Parkhotel-Valkenburg at the end of 2018.
Her 2019 season was even more impressive. With 15 wins, including beating Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) to win the Dutch nationals, Wiebes established herself as one of the best sprinters in the sport.
However, late last year the Dutch rider confirmed media reports she wanted to leave the team. At Christmas Wiebes told Dutch media she wanted to transfer to a bigger squad, suggesting she would consider leaving the sport if her contract was not terminated. Tromp and the team were forced to take action to bring the issue to a close.
“I told my lawyer to file a lawsuit because I think you can’t break a contract,” Tromp continued. “But last Tuesday evening we met with Lorena’s lawyers and we found a solution.”
What happens after June 1 remains to be seen, but Wiebes moving to one of the new WorldTour teams remains a strong possibility. What is unknown is whether the rider or her representatives initiated the issue or if other teams made an approach despite the ongoing contract.
“It was clear that she had offers from many teams. That’s against the gentlemen’s agreement that we all have as team mangers and teams in general,” Tromp explained.
“I got a lot of messages from other sports directors and team managers saying well done, because your whole team is based on contracts, and if it’s possible to get out of a contract that easily then you are nothing.
“It’s also a wake up call for the UCI, the teams and the contracts are based on trust, and they have to open their eyes to see what is going on because I think this will be more common in the next few years.”
The issue has not upset the team’s preparations, however. Their pre-Christmas training camp was positive, and with Wiebes on board for the the opening months of the year, they are arguably stronger than last season.
New arrivals Anouska Koster and Romy Kasper bring both experience and talent. However it is another rising star, Demi Vollering who could raise their profile more.
“She had a breakout season last year, she proved that she a world class rider, and of course we hope she can do well. But she is still young and we have to be careful.”
Wiebes’s possible departure has not dented Tromp’s ambitions either, her long term strategy is unchanged and she hopes to take the squad to WorldTeam status in the coming years.