Lotto Soudal ban alcohol for all riders and staff

Cyclingnews
 Caleb Ewan swigs the champagne on the podium
Caleb Ewan swigs the champagne on the podium

There will be no post-race hotel drinks for any of the Lotto Soudal staff in 2020, as the Belgian team have taken the unusual measure of banning alcohol from the top to the bottom of the organisation. 

Victories and birthdays will still be allowed to be toasted with a glass of champagne, but otherwise the whole team is on dry January and beyond while representing the team at training camps and races. 

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Alcohol was already out of reach of riders, but now the mechanics, soigneurs, directors, and other team staff will have to abide by the same rules.

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"This measure applies in many companies. It is part of the way of living together. The majority of staff also thought this was a good idea," Lotto Soudal CEO John Lelangue told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.

"We remain a friendly team, but without alcohol. Drinking coffee together is also nice."

On the eve of last year's Vuelta a EspaƱa, team coach Kevin De Weert was sent home and suspended for a month after what was rumoured to be an alcohol-related incident. Lelangue, however, denied that was relevant to the alcohol ban.

"It has absolutely nothing to do with that incident. We already had a code of conduct, and I have now adjusted it a bit for safety reasons," he said. 

"Almost every staff member has to drive a car at certain times of the day. Then it seems better to ban alcohol. Every staff member wears clothing from the team with our sponsors during the races. We are all Lotto-Soudal ambassadors."

Champagne is a common sight at the hotel dinner table if a rider has just won a race, or if it's someone's birthday, and that tradition will be allowed the continue. 

According to Lelangue, exceptions to the new code of conduct will be made for "victories, birthdays, and special events", and it's up to the lead director on each race "to judge when there is a special event". 

If someone falls foul of the rules, it would not lead to an automatic dismissal, according to Nieuwsblad, but would affect their chances of a contract for the following year. 

"The punishment is also black and white in the code of conduct, which everyone signed, but remains internal," said Lelangue.

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