Newly-crowned world champ Zdeněk Štybar and his teammate Kevin Pauwels are at the center of a great deal of speculation and wooing, despite their contractual obligations to their current Telenet – Fidea team until 2011. Štybar openly admitted on his website a few weeks ago that Štybar he is in negotiations for a contract for next year, stating that he had offers from his current Telenet – Fidea squad as well as Lanbouwkrediet, Sunweb – Revor Agricole and Quick Step. According to Belgian website Sport.be, Sunweb has also aggressively pursued Pauwels, who had a breakthrough win at this year’s World Cup in Zolder.
As Telenet – Fidea Hans Van Kasteren told Gazet van Antwerpen, he’s none too happy that these teams are approaching his riders while they’re under contract. “A while ago, all the cyclocross teams signed a charter which we promised not to approach riders under contract. (These teams) now have done both,” said Van Kasteren. I have five years’ time, money and effort invested in Stybar and Pauwels.”
Van Kasteren went on to insinuate that Štybar has misrepresented his current salary to other teams and said that he’s not willing to participate in the auction. He has even talked of shutting down the powerhouse Telenet team should his star rider depart.
The dispute between Van Karsteren and Jurgen Mettepenningen, manager of Sunweb – Revor, has turned into a legal battle, with Van Karsteren filing suit against Mettepenningen. For his part, Mettepenningen claims no wrong-doing and claims to be considering a counter-suit for slander and defamation. “Look, I just want my sponsors to have the best riders available. But I have plenty of time. Indeed, I never signed the charter (not to pursue contracted riders), and cyclocross teams don’t stick to it,” Mettepenningen told Sport.be.
GvA attributed another controversial quote to quote to a frustrated Van Karsteren, which he has subsequently attempted to soften: “East-blockers are apparently sensitive to money and drugs.” Rather than implying that Štybar might be doping, Van Karsteren has since explained that he was referring to the Polish Szczepaniak brothers’ infractions, perhaps for financial gain, and Štybar’s more recent pursuit of euros.