Lotto-Soudal boss: ‘Why question a model that works perfectly?’

Manager backs cycling's business model as team grinds out the coronavirus crisis on reduced pay.

Photo: Getty Images

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

John Lelangue, boss of Belgian squad Lotto-Soudal, insists there’s no need for a shift in the economics of cycling.

“Cycling has survived for more than 50 years in the way it survives today,” Lelange said this week. “There are no fewer riders or fewer sponsors than in the 1990s or 2000s. Why question a model that works perfectly?”

Lelangue’s words come in the wake of Team Ineos boss David Brailsford calling for a revision of cycling’s business model when the world comes out of the coronavirus crisis. Brailsford had talked of shifting economic importance away from the Tour de France, instead spreading the focus across the season, and urged the sport to adopt a modernized, “more robust structure.”

Lelangue previously worked at BMC Racing alongside team owner Andy Rihs, who passed away in 2018.

“Andy Rihs taught me that if a cycling team makes a profit at the end of the season, it is either because too much money was being asked of the sponsors or because not enough money was being pumped into the development of the sport,” Lelangue told Le Soir.

“A sport without ticket revenues, television rights and transfer fees is indeed viable,” the Belgian manager said, insisting that cycling should not be compared to enclosed, ticketed events such as tennis or football. “Visualizing sponsors remains the essence of our sport. Teams offer them publicity, hospitality, marketing, and communication. We don’t make a profit in any way and we invest everything we have left in our sport.”

Lotto-Soudal riders and management voluntarily reduced their pay when the coronavirus crisis put a stop to racing in an act of solidarity with unemployed part-time staffers and to show support for team sponsors. Since then, the team has been keeping riders active and sponsors in the spotlight by sending riders into online pro races such as Digital Swiss 5 and the virtual Tour of Flanders, and hosting Zwift rides headed up by classics legend Philippe Gilbert.

Lelangue is not the only team manager to disagree with Brailsford in the past week. NTT Pro Cycling boss Bjarne Riis hit out at the Ineos head on Thursday, stating that Brailsford was “selfish” in considering withdrawing his team from the Tour de France if he felt health and safety measures were insufficient.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.