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“Yes, John is still with us and will not leave.”
Those are the words emanating from Lotto-Soudal‘s upper management after reports in the Belgian media that team manager John Lelangue’s right-hand person Valerie D’Haeze handed in her resignation.
D’Haeze had been with the team for over a decade but stepped up as the team’s operations and administration manager in 2019. D’Haeze will officially leave her role in the next two weeks, and according to the team her departure is due to “personal reasons”.
“Valerie’s decision to leave the team was a personal decision. She has been with the team for almost 17 years. Of course, everyone is very sad to see her leave. She has been of great value for us, but we have to respect the decision she made and the fact that she wants to find a new opportunity,” a Lotto-Soudal spokesperson told VeloNews.
“Valerie will leave at the end of the month. We will give her the farewell she deserves after all this time with the team. Like she said when announcing her resignation: she will remain a lifelong Lotto Soudal supporter.”
According to a report in Wielerflits, D’Haeze’s influence began to suffer after the arrival of Yana Seel from Astana-Premier Tech as the new chief business officer.
The news of D’Haeze’s departure comes as Lotto-Soudal’s season continues to disappoint with the team stuck in a WorldTour relegation battle that it looks increasingly likely to lose.
To make matters worse, according to reports in Belgium, and sources who have spoken to VeloNews, it looks increasingly likely that Tim Wellens will leave the team at the end of the season.
The Belgian rider is out of contract at the end of 2022 and is contemplating a new challenge at this point in his career.
Wellens has been with the team since turning professional in 2012 and has been one of the best riders to come through the team in recent years. The 31-year-old is set to race the Tour de France in July.
Wellens aside, the team will be worried by the fact that any of their current riders could potentially walk away at the end of the season, even if they have contracts for next season and beyond.
Clauses in their contract stipulate that they have agreed to terms with a WorldTour team. If Lotto-Soudal drops down a division then those contracts could be voided.
So proud of this Team and so happy to see @DeGendtThomas winning today @giroditalia ! Thanks to the boys, the staff and @LotNat_Belgique to be behind this project and supporting me in good and difficult moments! We have a vision and believe in it! Cycling is beautiful like this
— John Lelangue (@johnlelangue) May 14, 2022
The loss of D’Haeze may not directly impact results on the road, and the team is certainly riding a wave after Thomas De Gendt, another out of contract rider, won a stage at the Giro d’Italia, but it underlines what HLN called a “storm at Lotto-Soudal.”
On Tuesday the team was quick to confirm that Lelangue, who took over as CEO from Marc Sergeant in 2019, would not be leaving the team.
“Yes, John is still with us and will not leave,” Seel told VeloNews via text.
Lelangue did not respond to calls or texts.
VeloNews will have more on the story as it develops.