Lotto-Belisol Manager: “Frankly, to not have the license is unthinkable!”
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lotto-Belisol Manager: “Frankly, to not have the license is unthinkable!”

by Ben Atkins at 11:08 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Bill Olivier confident that Belgian team will keep its WorldTour status in 2013

andre greipelWith the International Cycling Union (UCI) due to announce the remaining ten teams of the 2013 WorldTour on Monday, December 10th, one team that is highly confident of keeping its place at the top table is Lotto-Belisol. Team manager Bill Olivier explained to Walloon newspaper la Derniere Heure that, despite being outside the top-15 teams in the UCI’s sporting criteria ranking, Lotto-Belisol’s ProTeam registration is all-but assured.

“Yes, because we had a very good 2012 season and our team has remained virtually unchanged for 2013,” he said. “Our riders have their automations and young people will be one year stronger in 2013. Our small administrative error was resolved three or four days after the deadline, and we received the green light from the UCI on this point.

“As for the issue of ethics, very important in cycling today, in this we are irreproachable,” he added.

Lotto has been sponsoring cycling teams since 1984, either as the first or second sponsor, which is another thing that should stand in the team’s favour, Olivier thinks.

“We can rely on a loyal sponsor, the National Lottery has been in cycling for so long, and the UCI is sensitive to that fidelity,” he explained. “We also have very good co-sponsors. We have a solid structure and a real approach to youth training, another highlight at the UCI.

“We are the third youngest team in the World Tour,” he continued. “But as we were ranked between 16th and 20th places in the UCI ranking, we had to go before the license commission to discuss our sporting value.”

The UCI announced the names of the first eight WorldTour teams on November 2nd and, shortly afterwards on November 17th, Gianni Meersman used the clause in riders' contracts that allows them to leave if their team doesn’t get registration to jump across to Belgian rivals Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

While the loss of such a talented rider will doubtless be felt, Olivier feels that the team is still more than strong enough from a sporting perspective, and that it’s the other teams outside the top-15 that need to be comcerned about missing out.

"Yes, it is a real loss, Gianni became a leader here after he rediscovered himself at our team,” Olivier said. “He received an offer that we could not match, but we remain confident for the license. We just returned from a seminar at UCI and we received very good feedback.

“I don’t think we have to worry,” he added. “It's more something for the other teams to worry about.”

Lotto-Belisol [then called Omega Pharma-Lotto - ed] actually won the 2011 WorldTour, but most of the teams points were earned by the incredible season of Philippe Gilbert, who took them with them when he left for BMC racing at the end of the year. This year - without Gilbert the team did well but, with the UCI’s method of calculating its ‘sporting criterion’ it somehow placed 17th in the ranking.

With those in the top-15 virtually assured of 2013 registration - providing they can meet the UCI’s expectation in ethics, finance and administration - and with Europcar choosing to remain in the Professional Continental ranks, Lotto-Belisol finds itself up against Argos-Shimano, FDJ and Saxo-Tinkoff for the final three available places.

The Belgian team was below Argos-Shimano in the ranking, but Olivier feels that the team’s performance in 2012 - which included André Greipel taking 19 wins, the most in the professional peloton - the team is worth its place in the WorldTour next year.

“A simple example: we finished 11th in the 2012 WorldTour, we had a lot of victories,” he explained. “And even with the departure of Meersman, UCI believes that we grew 25% in our sporting value.

“Frankly, to not have the license is unthinkable!” he added. “There was no thought of a plan B or plan C if we hadn’t. We deserve and we have done everything to get it.”


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