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Lotto-Soudal riders voluntarily reduce pay

Race cancelations leave Belgian team's self-employed staffers temporarily unemployed, falling pack on state aid.

Riders from Belgian team Lotto-Soudal have chosen to reduce their wages in an act of solidarity with staffers that have become temporarily unemployed.

In the wake of the postponement or cancelation of races through the first half of the year, the cluster of self-employed support staff working with the team — mechanics, soigneurs, physiotherapists and bus drivers — have become unemployed. As an act of team solidarity, the 27 riders on the team, including stars such as Philippe Gilbert, Caleb Ewan and John Degenkolb have volunteered to waive part of their wages.

“In solidarity with staff and sponsors, the riders, just like the entire management team and all administrative staff, have voluntarily decided to waive part of their wages, until the team races again,” said the team in a recent statement. “This decision was taken without discussion and with unanimity. It was clear to everyone that particular circumstances require particular team actions.”

Those members of staff that have had their contracts temporarily suspended have been able to fall back on Belgian state support measures. Over one million Belgians have so far fallen back on the government system as the impact of coronavirus shuts down industries through Europe.

Lotto-Soudal are not the first Belgian team to resort to state support for its temporary workers. Earlier this week, reports revealed that ProTour teams Circus-Wanty Gobert and Bingoal-Wallonie Brussels had fallen back on the scheme, with Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise considering making use of the system.

Two weeks since the WorldTour last saw racing — at Paris-Nice earlier this month — the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic is already becoming apparent. Patrick Lefevere, manager of Lotto Soudal’s rival Belgian team Deceuninck-Quick-Step, stated Thursday that the pandemic crisis had already cost his team 500,000 euros.

Teams and sponsors are currently holding out all hopes that the Tour de France will go ahead as planned this summer. The race is seen not only as the centerpoint of the racing season, but also forms the key piece of sponsor negotiations and team revenues. Though the last week week, ASO and French officials have been holding discussions over the prospect of holding the race ‘behind closed doors.’ A final decision on the fate of the Tour is expected to be made by mid-May.