By Gregor Brown
Belgian team Veranda's Willems-Crelan with star Wout Van Aert will merge for 2019 with Dutch professional continental team Roompot-NL Loterij.
The Belgian team had been said to be merging with team Aqua Blue before they folded earlier this week. The new team will ride the next road season under the name 'Roompot-Crelan'.
Van Aert, winner of three consecutive world champion titles in cyclocross, will be one of the team's leaders. The Belgian made his debut in the big Classics this spring and rode to ninth in the Tour of Flanders and 13th in Paris-Roubaix.
"Big news!" wrote Sniper Cycling, the management company of Veranda's Willems on Twitter. "Sniper Cycling will ride the next road season as 'Roompot-Crelan!'"
Sponsors Dutch Lottery and Veranda's Willems drop out, but Roompot and Crelan stay on. The team will race as Roompot-Crelan in the second division or professional continental ranks.
Van Aert will be the leader for the Classics at least for 2019. In 2020, he will join WorldTour Dutch team, LottoNL-Jumbo.
"The common ambition of this project is to create and develop a strong Belgian-Dutch cycling team, with both Belgian and Dutch riders and staff members," read a statement.
"The team will be registered under the Belgian license of Sniper Cycling, but will ride under the Dutch flag."
Both teams count 19 men in their squads. Riders like Van Aert will stay on to form the new Roompot-Crelan roster but others will search for new employers to continue riding in 2019.
"More experience, more expertise in multiple areas and a more extensive network will give the new team more strength and potential," continued the statement.
"In the short term, we should be able to kick off the 2019 road season well prepared and with a competitive team. In the longer term, participation in a Grand Tour is a tangible objective. Helping young riders in the development of their careers is one as well."
Van Aert recently won a stage and the Tour of Denmark overall, while team-mate Tim Merlier won two stages as well. Taco Van Der Hoorn gave Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij its recent win in the WorldTour race, the BinckBank Tour.
The management of Sniper Cycling, Nick Nuyens and Chris Compagnie, will join Michael Zijlaard, the current general manager of team Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij. Sports Directors will include Erik Breukink, Michael Boogerd and Jean Paul van Poppel.
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