Lotto looks to build a similar set up to Rabobank
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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Lotto looks to build a similar set up to Rabobank

by Xylon van Eyck at 7:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Belgian team would love to have Philippe Gilbert on board

Philippe GilbertOmega Pharma and Lotto, the Belgian National Lottery, have confirmed they will go their separate ways next year, ending a seven year partnership between the two team backers. In an official statement earlier this year, they explained the split, saying that “the visions of the two sponsors on a joint future project are too divergent”.

Omega Pharma had confirmed it will join the other Belgian ProTeam Quick Step, to stay in the top flight of the sport.

The National Lottery Lotto has also made its intentions clear about keeping a long-term commitment to Belgian cycling that began in 1984. Those involved are working on a team for next year that will comprise mostly Belgians.

“With the National Lottery, we believe in a model like that of Rabobank. With an A and a B-team of the same name. With the latter, a promising team. We are quietly working [on this],” said Marc Frederix, Director of Marketing & Sponsorship for the National Lottery, to Het Nieuwsblad.

“I think we’ll have at least twenty Belgians in the team, without being scary. Not only the Belgian approach, but the Belgian culture. Cross-pollination with other nationalities is beneficial. We do not have all the talent on board, but obviously the Belgian market is a priority for us.”

OmegaPharma-Lotto has had great success this season with Philippe Gilbert who has won more races than anyone else on the pro circuit. His victories include all three Ardennes classics, a stage and a spell in the yellow jersey in the Tour de France and, most recently, the San Sebastián Classic.

According to the newspaper Le Soir, Gilbert was upset last week when he learnt about the Omega Pharma and Quick Step merger in the media. He is said to have been approached by numerous teams, which include Lotto, BMC, Quick Step and Astana, but is still contracted to Belgian Cycling Company (the official name of Omega Pharma) for next year.

“Philippe does not deserve all this fuss around him,” added Frederix. “We have taught each other so much in recent years. His successes are primarily due to his professionalism, but he also has strong support from the team. I can imagine that it was a difficult choice [about which team to ride for next year]. Now however, he has a new plan in the head, we should respect that. I appreciate the way that he continues to race. He will do that until the last day of the season.”

About whether Lotto has in fact approached Gilbert for next year, Frederix said, “Who would not want Philippe Gilbert in their team? If I could, then please yes. With this man you will always profit. But if we could not [have him], then it is so.”

Gilbert is now in a similar predicament to Bradley Wiggins in 2009 and Fabian Cancellara last year. Both riders were still contracted to their respective teams and had to be bought out of their contracts to join their current teams. His lawyers are said to have made contact with his current employers, with a solution expected in due course.

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