Incoming Lotto-Soudal sponsor stays loyal but expects more from near-relegated side

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There is no turning back for Lotto-Soudal’s new sponsor, Dstny.

Dstny in February pledged to partner with Lotto to support the team for 2023 and 2024 and since then he has continued to watch the Belgian red and black outfit slide into ProTeam status.

Dstny CEO Daan de Wever said Het Laatste Nieuws he had to bury the bad vibes after watching his new marketing scheme dive deep into the WorldTour ‘relegation zone’ this season.

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

“Since then we have had many conversations with the board, management, riders and everyone involved in the cycling team. It 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 sees the final weeks of the 2022 calendar deep in the UCI rankings and doomed to three years of racing in second place.

The team is currently 1,100 points away from a WorldTour place and is racing for pride in season-ending races across Malaysia and Japan.

De Wever remains committed to his new project despite its impending decline in status, and instead seeks 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.

“Winning in Belgium is good, but as an international company it doesn’t help me”

Looking ahead, De Wever expects a lot more as he hopes to bring a breath of fresh air to Lotto-Dstny.

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

Of Lotto-Soudal’s 25 wins for 2022, nine have come from Belgium and five from France. The team has only been on the podium twice at WorldTour level.

“Winning in Belgium is good, but as an international company it doesn’t help me,” said De Wever.

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

Meanwhile, flagship driver Philippe Gilbert is retiring and points star Tim Wellens is leaving for the United Arab Emirates. Lotto-Dstny will rely on two new graduates from its U23 team and three young riders from Bingoal Pauwels Sauces to fill the void.

And it won’t just be a new identity and a new racing league for the Belgian team without Gilbert in 2023.

General manager John Lelangue abruptly left the team earlier this month, and his successor remains unknown. Hagens Berman Axeon driver Axel Merckx has been touted as the lead candidate for the job as the team seeks a full refresh in 2023.

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

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