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Caleb Ewan unlikely to leave Lotto-Soudal even if team is relegated from WorldTour

Aussie sprinter not looking to change if team loses elite status, says agent.

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Caleb Ewan is unlikely to leave Lotto-Soudal, even if the Belgian team is relegated from the WorldTour.

That’s according to his agent who has played down the notion of the sprinter switching teams at the end of the season.

Lotto-Soudal is currently in a dire position in the UCI WorldTour rankings and is at risk of dropping down a division, and potentially losing invites to some of the biggest races in the world next year.

Ewan is tied to the team until 2024 after signing a long-term contract with the squad he first joined in 2019. He has already won five races this season but he left the Giro d’Italia without picking up a stage win and despite a strong start to the year in smaller races Lotto-Soudal has struggled to improve its WorldTour ranking. Thomas de Gendt rallied for the team and picked up a win on stage 8 of the Giro but the team sits inside the relegation zone at present with Israel-Premier Tech also in trouble.

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Even though Ewan has a contract for next year there is a chance he and any WorldTour rider in a similar position could extract themselves from their deal if their team drops out of the top tier.

Several agents and team bosses have confirmed to VeloNews that riders can potentially remove themselves from teams if their squads are relegated. Article 8, section B of UCI rider contracts states: “If the UCI WorldTour license for the team expires, is withdrawn, or if the UCI WorldTeam is suspended for a period of time of three month’ rider may terminate the contract ‘without notice or liability for damages.’”

The “withdrawn” aspect of the clause is key because if Lotto-Soudal is relegated from the WorldTour the license will have effectively been withdrawn.

However, according to Ewan’s agent there is little chance of the Australian exercising that clause.

“I don’t think so. He’s committed and more importantly contracted,” Ewan’s agent told VeloNews in a text message.

“I think he’d probably rather them on [sic] the World Tour but it’s been shown that you can be very successful if you’re not on it.”

VeloNews asked Lotto-Soudal for a comment, specifically asking whether the team would continue if it was relegated, and then whether rider contacts could be nullified if relegation was confirmed. The latter question was not given a direct answer.

“First of all, we remain confident that, with just over a third of the season behind us and the strong team we have, we will be WorldTour in 2023,” a spokesperson for the team told VeloNews.

“That being said, the most important thing for everyone involved with our team: sponsors, riders and staff, is to be able to compete on the highest level and in the most prestigious races: the classic monuments, the Giro, Vuelta and of course the Tour de France. We want to show ourselves in those races in a positive way, with young, talented riders and try to win as much as possible. That has been the case during the previous 37 years this team existed and will remain so in the future: WorldTour or not. Both Lotto and our new co-titlesponsor Dstny have confirmed their commitment to the future of this team. Lotto has been a lifelong sponsor and also owner of the team, while Dstny has just signed a long term contract.

“We are focused on building our team for the future. Whatever the status of our team will be next year, the most important thing is to have a clear project. Together with our staff, riders and sponsors we are working very hard on that project for the next few years. We already have a young and very talented group of riders who have confidence in the long term plans we have made for each and every one of them. At the same time we are still working on improving wherever we can.”

There are a couple of important points that could make any potential switch for a rider with a contract beyond this year tricky.

Firstly, teams might have to wait until the end of the road season in late autumn to find out their exact fate when it comes to relegation. By that point it’s likely that most managers will have already spent most of their budget for the following year on bolstering their teams. Therefore the chance of picking up a rider of Ewan’s caliber and expense will be difficult to plan for.

Obviously team managers can always ask sponsors for additional funds, but that aspect, coupled with the licensing planning each team must go through during the same period of time, would make such deals difficult to orchestrate.

Theoretically it’s more conceivable to envisage valued domestiques being picked up if their teams are relegated and they are interested in a move. Teams that are relegated also, in theory, have the option to break contracts with their riders if the squad is relegated.