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Jul 1, 2002 11:28 AM
Monday's Eurofile: Lotto-Domo merger; New Peace Race winner; Front-row seat for Robin
By Andrew Hood
VeloNews European correspondent
This report filed July 1, 2002
Just a week after Mapei shocked the cycling world by announcing its departure from the sport, two of Belgium's biggest teams have announced they will merge for the 2003 season.
Domo and Lotto announced Monday and will race under the name of Lotto-Domo, with each sponsor paying a reported $2.5 million to the team's budget giving it the wallet to chase the sport's biggest names.
"With the creation of a powerful Belgian team, the merger will stimulate an already strong interest in cycling in Beglium," said Rik Daems, president of Lotto, Belgium's national lottery. "With the joined finanicial forces, it will give the team more freedom to sign riders."
Both teams will lose their co-sponsors, Domo with Farm Frites and Lotto with Adecco, but Eddy Merckx, who helped pull together the merger, said "all cycling fans will love this merger."
Lotto and Domo are the only Division I Belgian teams and both are ranked in the top-10, which give them both automatic berth into the grand tours. Domo already has Richard Virenque and former world champions such as Johan Museeuw and Romans Vainsteins and former U.S. champion Fred Rodriguez while Lotto has such popular Belgian riders as Peter Van Petegem, Rik Verbrugghe, Mario Aerts and Australian Robbie McEwen.
There was no news on who would be directing the team or which riders might be released from contracts as current UCI rules limit the size of Division I teams.
Given that Eddy was behind the merger effort, we can guess that those won't be Litespeeds the team will be riding next year.