SD Worx team manager wanted to keep Vollering and Kopecky for 2025

Erwin Janssen says he made Tour de France champion 'a really good offer' as an 'ultimatum' and plays down any notion of tensions for remainder of 2024 season

Clock14:59, Thursday 28th March 2024
Demi Vollering (left) and Lotte Kopecky are set to part ways in 2025

© Getty Images

Demi Vollering (left) and Lotte Kopecky are set to part ways in 2025

SD Worx-Protime general manager Erwin Janssen has looked to quell the furore caused by the impending departure of Demi Vollering from the team by stating that he made the Tour de France Femmes champion a ‘really good offer’ and that he intended to keep both Vollering and fellow team leader Lotte Kopecky on the squad.

Both riders came into 2024 in the final year of their current deals and, according to Janssen, both riders were offered new terms at the same time earlier this year. Kopecky signed for another four years but on Wednesday GCN broke the story that Vollering would leave the team after not responding to her offer within the time frame set by the squad.

"We want to keep Demi in our team. She’s the best rider in the world and we’re very happy with her," Janssen told GCN and Cyclingnews at SD Worx-Protime’s pre-Tour of Flanders press conference on Thursday.

"We have the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 [UCI-ranked riders] in our team and that’s pretty difficult but the goal was to keep Lotte and Demi together. We saw last year how good they are together and how strong."

According to Janssen, negotiations went on for several months but the ultimatum was put in place to protect the team’s long-term interests. The team manager also stressed that the team wanted to keep both riders, and that it wasn’t simply a choice between keeping one or the other.

"We did it at the same time, and gave them both an offer. It was the priority to keep them both. It wasn’t that we wanted Lotte or Demi. We wanted to keep them both,” he said.

"We were negotiating for around eight or nine months with Demi and her management. We are in the season and we need to look forward to the future and which future riders are staying with us, so then we made an ultimatum last offer and, in our opinion, it was a really good offer but we now know how the market is.

"Sometimes it’s really crazy but the offer we made was pretty good and then we said it was an ultimatum because we needed to go on. Her management didn’t give the go for that and that meant for us that they didn’t want to go on with the team."

The exact terms of the Vollering offer were not discussed but Janssen spoke as the rider’s agent looked on from the other side of the hall. Vollering and her agent declined to comment on the situation but Janssen reiterated the team’s stance in wanting to keep both athletes.

“Of course, of course, but we have our budget and that’s what Danny [Stam, sports manager] said yesterday. We have our budget and we made a really interesting offer – in our opinion that was the max," Janssen said, adding:" If there are other teams that can pay more…”

Asked if he believed that Vollering had already agreed terms with another squad, Janssen said: “I don’t think so. I really think that Demi also wanted to stay with us and we wanted to keep her from the beginning. That was the goal. I don’t think there is another team at the moment but for us, it’s important to go on.”

Avoiding tensions and finding a new Vollering

The press conference in Oudenaarde was as much about damage limitation as it was about controlling the narrative and trying to keep the focus on racing. Kopecky was introduced to the media, with the team requesting that only racing matters be discussed. Vollering kept the same line of communication but Janssen was asked whether it would be a challenge to keep two high-profile riders happy over the coming months when it was clear that Vollering was leaving and Kopecky’s ever-improving results could manifest themselves onto the Dutch rider’s turf.

Janssen confirmed that the team were still completely committed to supporting Vollering in her Tour de France challenge but he admitted that the situation was delicate.

"It’s a little bit difficult, like yesterday in the media but if we look back at last year, and the last years together with Demi in the team, we were happy with her and she was happy with us," he said. "We trust her and they all want to win and stay as the number one in the world. I’m fully convinced that we’re going to do that again."

When asked about committing to Vollering at the Tour, Janssen said: “Of course, of course, of course. If she leaves the team it’s not that we don’t want to win with her again. We love to ride with her, she loves to ride with us. So we’ll do everything again to win the Tour de France and stay as the number one team. Like in business, you will find each other, and sometimes you don’t find each other. That’s the situation.”

It’s unclear whether the team will use the money offered to Vollering to bolster their GC chances in the future or continue to develop Kopecky and those already around her. The Vollering ultimatum at least gives them time to scour the market.

"So far we don’t look. First, we want to know the situation but we think about a plan B. That’s important. Since 2016 we’ve been the number one team in the world and that means you always have to think about another plan."

Finally, Janssen was asked why he thought Vollering had decided to leave the team.

"I don’t know. At best you can ask her or her management at least. I think she really loves to race with us, so I don’t think she wants to leave us but that’s my feeling. People blow up this case but we need to stay cool and do our job, and that’s racing and winning races, and focus on that.”

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