GT Lotto - Stive Vermaut


Road race historians might recall the GT/Lotto deal as one of the more entertaining, when within a matter of weeks in 1999 one of the biggest names in BMX and mountain bike racing jumped into the Tour de France.

The sponsorship was the brainchild of Andrew Herrick, the GT marketeer who was at the centre of the GT/Lotto team sponsorship.  With Trek already working on a Tour de France program with the U.S. Postal team and Cannondale teaming with Saeco on more of a Giro d’Italia program, Herrick thought it would be good idea for GT to be aligned with a great Spring Classics team – the Belgian Lotto/Mobistar team.

Herrick and his team envisioned GT’s at Paris-Roubaix, Ghent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders. He travelled to Europe in May 1999 to meet with Jean-Luc Vandenbrouke, the director of the Lotto team. Herrick offered to sponsor the team for three years but only if the team was willing to switch bikes for the Tour de France – which was just six weeks away!

Vandenbrouke said that if GT could get 35 custom bikes, including time trial bikes, made in time, then it was a ‘yes’. It was then over to Steve Cuomo, GT’s head of head of product development back in California. Within 24 hours the product engineers at GT had received the geometries for each of the riders that were to be on the tour team from Franky Theunis, Benelux GT Sales Director. 

The welders, frame engineers and product managers worked day and night for the next few weeks under the supervision of Cuomo and Theunis. They constructed 40 custom frames in just 20 days, made mostly of 6061 Easton Aluminium, with a few lightweight scandium tubesets for the climbers. In mid-June the road and TT framesets were boxed up and sent to Belgium where it took another six days to assemble the bikes before they were rolled out to the media.

The team did not have very much success at the Tour de France that year, but the riders were happy because their bikes fit.  And a few months later, Andrei Tchmil rode his GT to win the overall World Cup at the Tour of Lombardia in Bergamo, Italy.

Lotto signed a contract for the next two years, and GT built special bikes for Tchmil with narrower top tubes and special Paris-Roubaix bikes with longer chainstays and more tire clearance for the mud – which is the model that we have in our Flandrien Hotel collection.

The bicycle was built for Stive Vermaut to use at Paris-Roubiax in 2001. Vermaut was a Belgian professional who raced for the Lotto Adecco team during the 2001 and 2002 seasons before he was forced to stop cycling due to a congenital heart defect. He died in 2004 at just 28 years old, and his life is commemorated each year at the Omloop van de Westhoek -Memorial Stiv Vermaut cycling race.