ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Cycling Contracts News

Lighter posting for the next fortnight as I am engrossed in the 2021 Tour de France.

But, I am so impressed with the range of New York Contract Law Decisions, who has directed me to a decision of the Antwerp labor court, I had to make time to report on the Wout van Aert case. 

Who is Wout van Aert?  Well, he's a talented cyclist

He is currently third in the general classification of the Tour de France after finishing 20th last year, and although he did not finish the 2019 edition, he won two stages (one was a team time trial, but still) before crashing into some fencing in a time trial.  Before becoming a road cyclist, he was a dominant cyclo-cross rider.  I'm not sure what that is exactly, but it seems to involve getting dirty and sometimes having to carry your bike up stairs and also ride it down stairs and just about anything else.

As recounted here, in 2018, van Aert rode with team Verandas Willems-Crelan (Verandas), but he was dissatisfied on that team and was due to transfer to Jumbo-Visma in 2020.  Jumbo was willing to take van Aert a year early, and so he jumped ship and began riding with Jumbo in March 2019.   Verandas sued, seeking $1.3 million in damages relating to lost sponsorships once the team lost its star rider.  van Aert alleges that the team had defaulted on the agreement.  It's not clear how.  He won in the first round in 2019.  Somehow, the case wound up back in court, and the Belgian court has now sided with Verandas, awarding just over $800,000. 

An appeal is expected.  Stay tuned.

Recent Cases, Sports | Permalink


Van Aert is a huge star in Belgium (where cycling is as popular as soccer) more for his ability to win one-day races like Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche than for his performances in the Tour de France. He is too heavy to prevail in the high mountains. In the Tour de France last year, he was mainly riding to help his team leader Primoz Roglic, which made it all the more remarkable that he could also win stages in his own right.

Van Aert was upset with his old team because they were pursuing merger talks with other teams without telling him. That doesn't sound like a breach of contract, but he also makes the specific allegation that the team was trying to convince his former coach to sign a false and incriminating statement about him (this is cycling, so one assumes this statement would have concerned doping). Belgian law recognizes a duty to perform contracts in accordance with good faith, and perhaps Van Aert is claiming that the team breached that duty.

The second decision was a successful appeal by the team from the first decision. Van Aert seems to be appealing to the Hof van Cassatie / Cour de Cassation, effectively the Supreme Court of Belgium.

Posted by: New York Contract Law Decisions | Jun 30, 2021 12:29:41 PM

Thanks! Helpful stuff! The allegation about pressuring a former coach to claim that van Aert was doping is alarming and, if true, damning.

Posted by: Jeremy Telman | Jun 30, 2021 1:25:18 PM

On closer examination of some articles in the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad (using google translate), it seems the alleged lie wasn't about doping. Instead, van Aert claimed the team asked the coach to say that the breakdown in trust between the parties was down to van Aert's behavior. Less damning!

Posted by: New York Contract Law Decisions | Jun 30, 2021 3:39:20 PM

Thanks for the pro bono sleuthing! I'm glad to lean that at least one rumor about doping and cycling has turned out to be untrue!

Posted by: Jeremy Telman | Jul 1, 2021 4:40:46 AM