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Incoming Lotto-Soudal sponsor remains true but expects more from all-but relegated team

'Had I known in January what I knew in mid-May, I might not have signed a sponsorship contract,' says boss of incoming title backer Dstny.

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There’s no looking back for incoming Lotto-Soudal sponsor Dstny.

Dstny this February committed to saddle up with Lotto in backing the team for 2023 and 2024 and since then endured watching the red and black Belgian outfit slide toward ProTeam status.

Dstny CEO Daan de Wever told Het Laatste Nieuws he had to bury bad vibes after watching his new marketing project plunge deep into the WorldTour “relegation zone” this season.

“Had I known in January what I knew in mid-May, I might not have signed a sponsorship contract,” the Dstny boss said.

“Since then we have had many conversations with the board, management, the riders and everyone involved in the cycling team. That has given us a lot of confidence for the future. It is clear that we have to start building the team again.”

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Lotto-Soudal is seeing out the final weeks of the 2022 calendar deep down the UCI rankings and doomed to three years of racing at the second tier.

The team is currently 1,100 points adrift of a slot in the WorldTour and racing for pride at season-ending races through Malaysia and Japan.

De Wever remains committed to his new project despite its imminent downturn in status, and is instead looking to rebuild in 2023.

“I had a clause that I could withdraw the sponsorship if the team went down. That would have been the easiest solution,” he said.

‘Victories in Belgium are nice, but as an international company, that doesn’t help me’

Looking forward, De Wever expects a lot more as he hopes to bring fresh wind to Lotto-Dstny.

Arnaud de Lie saved the team’s blushes with a late-season wave of victories this summer, but the 20-year-old’s run of success came entirely on home soil.

Of Lotto-Soudal’s 25 victories for 2022, nine came from Belgium and five from France. Only twice did the team top the podium at WorldTour level.

“Victories in Belgium are nice, but as an international company, that doesn’t help me,” De Wever said.

Many of Lotto-Soudal’s top riders, including De Lie and Caleb Ewan, said they will stay with the team in the new year regardless of its WorldTour status.

Meanwhile, headline rider Philippe Gilbert retires and points-scoring star Tim Wellens leaves for UAE Emirates. Lotto-Dstny will be looking to two new graduates from its U23 team and three young riders out of Bingoal Pauwels Sauces to fill the gap.

And it won’t just be a new identity and new racing league for the Gilbert-less Belgian team in 2023.

General manager John Lelangue abruptly exited the squad at the turn of this month, and his successor remains unknown. Hagens Berman Axeon pilot Axel Merckx has been touted as lead candidate for the position as the team looks for a full refresh in 2023.

“If we can catch up step by step, I am convinced that we can look up again,” De Wever said.