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Ridley accuses Lotto Dstny of “disloyalty” and “reputational damage” as Belgian team looks to break contract with bike sponsor

Lotto Dstny CEO Stéphane Heulot confirmed that the squad will be switching to a new brand, rumoured to be Orbea, despite Ridley’s existing contract running until the end of 2025

The CEO of Ridley has accused Lotto Dstny of “disloyalty” after it emerged that the Belgian team appears set to bring an early end to its 12-year partnership with the bike brand, a move which Ridley chief Jochim Aerts says has inflicted “reputational damage” upon the company.

According to reports in the Belgian press this week, Lotto Dstny’s squad – which includes Thomas De Gendt, Victor Campenaerts, Arnaud De Lie, and Caleb Ewan (though uncertainty currently hangs over the Australian sprinter’s future with the team) – will be riding Orbeas from January, ending the Belgian outfit’s long-term association with Ridley.

Lotto’s decision to jump ship to the Basque manufacturer – who most famously supplied its home Euskaltel Euskadi team for two decades between 1994 and 2013, along with more recent short-lived partnerships with Cofidis and B&B Hotels – means that they will be forced to break their contract with Ridley, which currently runs to the end of 2025.

> Lotto Dstny swap to Orbea bikes for 2024, breaking contract with Ridley

Het Laatste Nieuws reported that the delayed supply of time trial bikes was cited as one reason for the early split, while several of the team’s riders tested different bikes this summer with a view to changing brands.

However, in a statement confirming the news yesterday, Lotto Dstny CEO Stéphane Heulot claimed that the decision was motivated by financial concerns. According to the existing contract, which was signed in 2021, Ridley’s financial contributions to the ProTour squad were kept low, though the team was allowed to sell on the company’s bikes itself to raise additional funds.

This lack of funds, reports suggest, also presented a barrier when it came to negotiations with Lotto Dstny’s sprinting prospect Arnaud De Lie – who enjoyed a breakthrough classics campaign in the spring – with the 21-year-old allegedly hesitant about signing a new contract until a decision on a bike sponsor had been made, or additional funds were secured.

“Our collaboration with Ridley will indeed end at the end of this year,” Heulot told Het Laatste Nieuws.

“We are switching to a new bicycle brand. Not so much because we are not satisfied with the quality of the Ridley bike. We have had 12 great years with numerous victories. We choose another brand because we want to improve ourselves financially. That is necessary to be able to keep our current core.”

> “Bigger is better!” Victor Campenaerts’ Ridley Noah with 62T chainring + Classified Powershift hub

Now Ridley CEO Jochim Aerts has hit back at Lotto Dstny’s decision to leak the news in the press, bringing an acrimonious end to a partnership that began in 2011, when the future of the Belgian team appeared ominously bleak.

“Ridley feels compelled to respond to ongoing press leaks from the new management at Lotto Dstny. A current agreement is unilaterally terminated and 12 years of intensive and positive cooperation are consigned to the wastepaper basket,” Aerts said in a statement given to Het Laatste Nieuws.

“In 2021, we were asked by the then management to break open the current agreement, something that we as a company went along with to please the team and the riders. Two years later, when we are fully investing in optimising the material for the team, we get a cold shower.”

Aerts in particular focused on claims that Ridley’s bikes weren’t up to the required standard, pointing out that De Lie has already tasted victory aboard the ‘Falcn’, the new (and until now unnamed) road bike from the Belgian company first spotted by road.cc at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

2023 Dauphine Ridley prototype - 1 (1)

> New Ridley road bike breaks cover at Critérium du Dauphiné

“At the end of May, several shots were fired in the press in which the CEO of the team claimed that Ridley’s bikes would not be Pro Tour worthy. There would be doubts, especially about the new time trial bike, the new Dean,” Aerts continued.

“It is remarkable when you see how many races Arnaud De Lie wins on our new ‘Falcn’ and when you read that Alec Segaert states on September 16, 2022, following the signing of a professional contract, that the new Ridley time trial bike has certainly played a role in his decision!”

Aerts then argued that Lotto Dstny’s decision was a purely financial one, before accusing the team of “disloyalty and reputational damage”, and leaving the company with “lost investments”.

“A good and attentive reader understands that there is more to it. Just before the termination of the current agreement with Ridley, Lotto Dstny announces the opening and extension of the agreement with Arnaud De Lie. This obviously required a budget, more budget than anticipated. And that is where the shoe is pinched,” he said.

“The new Chairman of the Board of Directors [Karel Van Eetvelt], for whom I have a lot of respect as well as for his predecessor Jannie Haek, made it clear to me that further cooperation would be possible if we made an extra financial effort.

“The health of our company has always been sacred to me and a guiding principle in my policy. What was asked could jeopardise our future, something I did not want.

“In the search for extra budget, it was therefore decided to unilaterally break the current agreement and to work with a new partner who is not even active in the World Tour!”

> Lotto Dstny sports director Allan Davis fired after sending "inappropriate" messages to women

He continued: “It should be clear that it was not the technological aspect that was important in the choice, but the financial contribution of the new partner. I deeply regret that for financial reasons a long-standing and successful cooperation is being unilaterally terminated.

“On the part of the Lotto Dstny management, people forget what investments we made again this year so that the riders could also compete at the highest level next year on more than competitive material!

“This disloyalty and reputational damage and the lost investments will have to be compensated. It is a pity that I also have to end with a financial aspect, but as I said, the future of my company and its employees are sacred to me. Ridley is therefore looking forward to the proposals that the management and/or the Board of Directors of Lotto Dstny will come up with to repair the damage suffered.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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Secret_squirrel | 9 months ago
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One hopes that that Orbea's financial contribution consist of a generous amount of padding to cover the damages for breach of contract that Ridley are about to sue for....

Given the insinuations about quality and bike development I'd be looking for more than the contract value if I were Ridley.

Neutral on Ridley but hope they screw Lotto to the wall on general principles.

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Rendel Harris replied to Secret_squirrel | 9 months ago
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Secret_squirrel wrote:

One hopes that that Orbea's financial contribution consist of a generous amount of padding to cover the damages for breach of contract that Ridley are about to sue for....

Looks like LD have played a shoddy game but the language doesn't seem to imply a breach of contract: Aerts doesn't mention it and his statement that “In 2021, we were asked by the then management to break open the current agreement, something that we as a company went along with to please the team and the riders" suggests they agreed to exit clauses.

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