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Bike sponsorship deals under threat for Lotto-Soudal and Ag2r-La Mondiale

Parent company of Ridley and Merckx bikes suffering from financial fallout of coronavirus pandemic, leading to questions over contract renewals.

Belgian bike brands Ridley and Merckx may vanish from the pro peloton in 2021.

Ridley and Merckx sponsor four pro road teams between them, with Lotto-Soudal and Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles riding on Ridley, and Ag2r-La Mondiale and Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise riding Eddy Merckx bikes.

All four contracts are due to expire in December, and according to Het Laatste Nieuws, Belgian Cycling Factory, the parent company of both brands, may not be renewing their deals having already put payments to Lotto-Soudal and Ag2r-La Mondiale on hold.

While the coronavirus crisis has had a positive impact on the cycling industry in much of Europe as more and more people use bikes for travel in a bid to reduce the use of public transport, Belgian Cycling Factory has not fared so well. With purchases of E-Bikes and entry-level bikes driving the wider European boom, Ridley and Merckx’s focus on top-end race machines has seen them at the wrong end of the market.

Both Ag2r-La Mondiale and ProTour team Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise ride Merckx bikes. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

“We are still negotiating with each of those teams,” said Thibaut Norga, marketing manager of Belgian Cycling Factory. “As with any negotiation, the modalities and amounts are reviewed, but it is not true that by definition we are going to cut heavily. This is not to say that we will continue with the four teams or that the contracts will all remain the same. It is about new negotiations, no one knows in advance how they will end. ”

However, it does seem that the company is looking to maintain its presence in professional cycling if it can.

“That is especially important for the American market, and even more so for the Asian market. You need heroes and signs to put your product there. For example, Caleb Ewan is very popular in Asia; in Japan, Adam Hansen is a cult idol. We need that kind of figure,” Norga said, referring to the Lotto-Soudal stars. The Belgian outfit reportedly receives a total of 150 bikes from Ridley for its men’s and women’s teams in a deal worth two million euros.

“In addition, we also need the direct feedback from the riders to continue to evolve in terms of technology,” Norga added. “So it is definitely our intention to stay in the pack. ”