Points and prizes: Lotto Dstny and its quest to return to the WorldTour

Team boss pins hopes on De Lie, Ewan as newly relegated squad 'strives toward a mix of battling for points and going for wins and attacking.'

Photo: Lotto Dstny

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Lotto Dstny is busy plotting its pathway back to the WorldTour after being relegated out of the top tier this winter.

Title backer Dstny and new manager Stéphane Heulot join the beleaguered Belgian team for 2023 as it takes a fresh identity for its three-year spell in the ProTeam division.

But the team’s mission remains the same as before – score points, win races.

“We strive toward a good mix of battling for the points and keep on going for wins and attacking. It is part of our DNA, and not something we will change instantly,” Heulot said this week.

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Lotto-Soudal committed to harvesting UCI points in any way possible at the close of 2022 as it dangled on the brink of WorldTour relegation.

The Belgian crew flooded lower-tier races with talent and stacked riders into top-10s to maximize its plunder of points.

It was a ploy that didn’t prove successful, and the Lotto team joined Israel Premier Tech in being booted from the WorldTour at the close of the UCI’s 2020-22 cycle.

Stéphane Heulot replaced John Lelangue at the top of Lotto Dstny.

Heulot, who stepped in to replace the outgoing team chief John Lelangue, is looking to play the UCI’s reinvented points system and squeeze the potential from his sprinter stars Arnaud de Lie and Caleb Ewan as he works toward sending his team back to the top.

Lotto Dstny already turned down its invite to the Giro d’Italia so as to focus on scoring points at lower-tier events elsewhere.

“There have been important changes in the points system. Now the first 20 riders of the team count compared to only ten in the past. Moreover, there are more points to be gained in some WorldTour races. It is important to keep that all in mind, ” Heulot said.

“We will always need to be amongst the first two ProTour teams to choose our own race schedule. That is the first goal. That is why we need to get the most out of every rider’s potential … the fact that the points of the best 20 riders count means that we really need to perform collectively. ”

Focus on the fast-finishers, burden on the whole bunch

De Lie almost singlehandedly saved Lotto in 2022.

Can De Lie and Ewan put Lotto Dstny on the fast-track back to the WorldTour?

The 20-year-old sensation De Lie was the revelation of 2022 with his nine victories and 20 further top-10s. Meanwhile, Ewan saw just one WorldTour win in 2022 but remains committed to returning to the front of the bunch gallops of grand tours.

As the top-ranked ProTeam at the close of 2022, Lotto secured automatic invitations to WorldTour races in 2023. Heulot and Co. will be hoping his two fast-finishers score early in the season’s biggest races to put his team on the right track.

De Lie’s breakout 2022 season pumped him into the top 10 of the UCI rankings and will see him step up several levels in 2023. Debuts at Milan-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix form the center of the Belgian’s spring in what will be his first full classics program.

“I am really eager to further discover myself in races of the highest level,” he said. “It will be a nice test and I obviously want to show myself. I can’t wait to know how it feels to be riding two monuments such as Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix.”

Ewan, who rides in the wheel of newly signed leadout man de luxe Jacopo Guarnieri in 2023, will saddle up with De Lie for Sanremo as the Aussie continues his long quest to capture the Italian monument.

Ewan’s calendar also includes Gent-Wevelgem, Scheldeprijs, and a return to the Tour de France, where he’s not won a stage since 2020.

“I hope that De Lie confirms his spectacular 2022 season, that Ewan will get back to his best level, and that there’s a nice atmosphere within the team in which everybody can pursue their goals in a pleasant way,” Heulot said.

De Lie and Ewan can’t do it all alone however.

Heulot’s commitment to harvesting points, the UCI’s shift in focus toward placings at top-tier races, and the new collation of points from a team’s top 20 riders (whereas previously it was top 10) means the whole squad will be shouldering burden.

Established riders like Florian Vermeersch, Victor Campenaerts, and Thomas De Gendt will be expected to be active through the spring as the team brings in a bunch of raw young talent for 2023.

“I don’t believe in misfortune or luck. I think that we ourselves have an impact on all those aspects of the sport by working hard, being concentrated, applying the guidelines given and the engagement of the entire team,” Heulot said. “If we stick to that, I believe we can obtain really nice results.”


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