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Rolf Aldag managed Cian Uijtdebroeks at Bora-hansgrohe and described him as intense and time consuming, but stressed he could challenge teams in a way that would improve them (Photo: Rene Oehlgen-Cor Vos)

Bora-hansgrohe directeur sportif, Rolf Aldag, has described Cian Uijtdebroeks as “intense” and “time consuming” as the legal wrangle over where the young rider will compete next year rumbles on.

However, speaking to The Cycling PodcastAldag also said a rider like Uijtdebroeks could push a team forward because he took people – riders and staff – out of their comfort zone by challenging them.

Aldag said he would be very surprised if the criticism by Uijtdebroeks of the Bora-hansgrohe TT set-up was true because they used “exactly the same” set-up as riders who were winning major TTs, including world champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep).

“It’s really hard to argue the bike is not competitive, the equipment is not competitive,” Aldag said of Uijtdebroeks’ remarks at the Chrono des Nations TT, where he claimed the team had a lot of work to do because the TT set-up was so far behind other teams.

Aldag stressed that the TT results of many riders in Soudal-QuickStep were very strong, not only Evenepoel. He did not see how Bora-hansgrohe’s TT set-up “could be criticised”, adding the team was clear with Uijtdebroeks he could ride Chrono des Nations, though it was not in the teams plans, merely for TT “practice”.

Cian Uijtdebroeks on the way to 8th overall at La Vuelta in September, underlining his potential as a possible Grand Tour contender (Photo: Luis Angel Gomez-Sprint Cycling Agency)

Aldag added there was no point in becoming emotionally involved in a round of claim and counter claim, saying “I’m not 20-years-old” and that he had “seen a lot of people come and go”. The team knew what it had, and had not, done and was “pretty confident” in its suppliers, set-up and staff.

Asked what Uijtdebroeks was like, Aldag said: “He’s very intense… within the team and also working with him, he’s really, really intense so he’s very time consuming but in a positive way.”

Aldag stressed when Uijtdebroeks was occupying his time, he had “very specific questions”. He was “very demanding, not just happy because you give him an answer, he’s happy if he understands your answer, if he accepts the answer”.

However, that meant “within the team he’s challenging others, he’s getting people out their comfort zone”. While some people liked that, others “liked it a little bit less maybe because he also puts the bar higher for every other rider”. That was “a positive thing and it’s the way the sport develops”.

Claims have emerged in the media that Uijtdebroeks was an outside in Bora-hansgrohe and was ridiculed or bullied during La Vuelta, where he finished 8th overall. He was also claimed some of the challenge to his GC position came from within his own team, namely Aleksandr Vlasov who finished 7th overall.

Aldag said though Uijtdebroeks was young, he had performed against the biggest riders at La Vuelta, while a Grand Tour was also a new experience for him. Because of that, he was under severe stress and it was difficult to “define expectations” for him on what was his Grand Tour debut.

“He had a guy staying with him for all of the race, so we did make him a co-leader there; Aleks Vlasov and Nico Denz would stay with him,” Aldag said. “And we had Jonas Koch dedicated to him so I just can’t see where there was a massive mistake done there.”

He added the Vuelta strategy was “laid out to everybody” and no “massive mistakes” were made with the execution of the performance plan. The dispute over where Uijtdebroeks would ride next year was now being driven by “emotions”.

But Aldag said the legal system would decide the outcome. He did not believe “it makes any sense” to comment on every new development or claim being made via the media.

“I try to stay cool on this and not get super emotional,” he said. “Let’s have an objective courtroom where we present our point, and he presents his points, and let’s see how it’s going to be ruled.”

He also believed the ruling in the case would be important because it would have implications for all of pro cycling. While there was a “way out” of contracts, that depended on all parties agreeing.

“If contracts have zero value, we have a problem there and you’ve seen a lot of team managers comment on that,” he added

Uijtdebroeks has been a Bora-hansgrohe rider for the last two years and has a contract for with the German team for next season. However, he claims he terminated that deal a year early, on December 1st, and last weekend Visma-Lease a Bike announced they had signed how.

However, Bora-hansgrohe hit back, saying the 20-year-old Belgian is still its rider until the end of next year. Uijtdebroeks decided to attend a Visma-Lease a Bike training camp in Spain this week and ignored the camp being held by Bora-hansgrohe in Mallorca.

The question of where he will ride next year remains unresolved and has now become a legal battle. Bora-hansgrohe is reportedly demanding a €1 million buy-out fee from Visma-Lease a Bike even though Uijtdebroeks, whose parents are lawyers, was only earning €100,000 annually

Aldag said, from outside the teams, the controversy probably looked like “off-season entertainment… let’s buy some popcorn… let’s follow the whole drama”. At this time of year, with no road racing, he believed it was also getting more media attention than it normally would.

“Being involved, it’s not super cool,” he added. “We have a plan done (for Uijtdebroeks), with race schedule done. For sure there was a plan done. There’s bikes in the service course, the clothing is all ordered it’s ready it’s done.

“We assumed, and we expect, especially from the operational side, that he’s part of the team. There was no other expectation than that. So of course it hits you like a hammer, that’s for sure.”

Aldag said he did not tend to focus too much on “rumours” in cycling and he also did not deal with rider contracts in Bora-hansgrohe. However, he said if he had a contract, he would either resolve any issue around the status of that deal “or I show up where I’m supposed to show up”.

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