Lotto-Soudal are as Belgian as waffles with chocolate sauce and, although they may not be the biggest, richest or most cosmopolitan team in the WorldTour, they are one of the most secure. The Belgian national lottery has sponsored the team since 1985 and has a deal which stretches to 2020, making them the team with the longest continuous backing in professional cycling.

For this episode, the first for Friends of the Podcast released in 2017, Lionel Birnie travelled to Majorca to spend a few days with the team. There he spoke to riders young and old, as well as the team boss, who rode for the fledgling Lotto team when it started in 1985.

In its three-decade history, Lotto have won more than 30 Tour de France stages, a string of top Classics and successive versions of the season-long competitions – the World Cup, the ProTour and the WorldTour. At times they have dominated the sprints, with Robbie McEwen and more recently Andre Greipel. There was also a period when they were led by Cadel Evans but the team’s bid to win the Tour de France fell just short in 2007 and 2008.

In the first part of this podcast, we hear from domestiques Lars Bak and Adam Hansen about life at a pro team training camp. First-year professional James Shaw is one of the youngest riders in the WorldTour, and a graduate of Lotto’s under-23 team. He explains how he managed to persuade his mum to allow him to leave school so he could race in Belgium. And Marcel Sieberg talks movingly about the accident at the Tour of Belgium which put his team-mate Stig Broeckx in a coma for six months and cast a shadow over the whole team.

In part two, we talk to Marc Sergeant, who rode for Lotto in 1985, delivered the team’s first ever Tour de France stage victory in 1987 and has been the team’s manager for more than a decade.

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