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Jumbo Visma and Soudal merger Quick-Step, bad news for cycling?

The Jumbo Visma and Soudal Quick-Step teams could merge in the near future. For many followers, this is worrying news for the future of the sport. Explanations.

Remco Evenepoel and Julian Alaphilippe in the same team as Jonas Vingegaard, Wout Van Aert, Sepp Kuss and Primoz Roglic? According to the very reliable Dutch media WielerFlits, this fantasy could become reality. from the 2024 season. Patrick Lefevere's Belgian team, Soudal Quick-Step, is indeed looking for new funding. It has long been question of a merger with the Ineos Grenadiers training of billionaire Jim Ratcliffe. But the leaders of the Jumbo Visma team interfered in the discussions, and it seems that they now hold the rope. Zdenek Bakala, boss of the Soudal Quick-Step team, was seduced by the prospect of a merger with the Dutch team. The main sponsors Soudal and Visma have also validated the idea of ​​this merger, such as Richard Plugge who would become CEO of the team and Patrick Lefevere who would head the Supervisory Board.

The great upheaval in the world of cycling

The new team, which should be called Visma Soudal or Soudal Visma, would like to respect its identity. Belgian-Dutch team by building its workforce around runners from the Benelux countries. This merger would make it possible to compete economically with the Ineos Grenadiers and UAE Team Emirates teams, the two biggest budgets on the World Tour. This would in turn confirm a paradigm shift in the world of cycling: the emergence of financially and sportingly dominant teams, concentrating most of the greatest talents in cycling. p>

The budgets of professional teams have always been limited. quite close, between 8 and 20 million for example for the World Tour teams in 2015. But for several years, certain teams have presented much larger budgets, making it possible to recruit the best riders but also to attract young talents from a very young age. Thus, the Ineos Grenadiers team would have a budget of around 50 million euros in 2023, the UAE Emirates Team is approaching 35 million and the Jumbo Visma benefits from around 27 million. Conversely, the majority of the other World Tour teams always have an envelope of between 10 and 15 million euros annually.

This economic domination does not fail to translate into sporting domination. As proof, the three biggest budgets of the World Tour were: the only teams with Be able to place a rider on a Grand Tour podium this year. The Jumbo Visma won won all three tests and even monopolized the competition. the Vuelta podium. UAE Team Emirates placed Joao Almeida 3rd in the Giro, Tadej Pogacar 2nd in the Tour and Adam Yates 3rd in the Tour. Finally, the Ineos Grenadiers team placed Geraint Thomas on the third step of the Giro podium; a meager record, however, for the richest team in the world. This concentration of the best riders logically worries the world of cycling, even in the management spheres.

A "salary-cap" to preserve competitiveness sport?

The idea of ​​a "salary-cap" is supported by several team bosses and has been studied for years by the Union Cycliste Internationale. Capping annual budgets would make it possible to rebalance forces, to distribute the best riders into more different teams, but also to favor the most ingenious teams which work the best, rather than the richest. In 2018, at the time of his election, the president of the UCI David Lappartient already said:   "The salary cap is a goal medium term […] The idea is that we can have good riders in each of the teams. Let us not have a concentration of resources in a single team. And ensure that we have leaders in each team and that the race is more interesting. Since then, it seems that the idea is still being studied with the AIGCP (International Association of Professional Cyclists Groups), but the implementation of such a reform remains very ;s hypothetical, and there is no doubt that some teams are firmly opposed to it.

Departures at high speed. plan?

While awaiting further information, the leaders of the two teams concerned did not wish to comment. commented on rumors of a merger, and the riders would not have been informed of these negotiations. However, they are the first to be affected. Indeed, the Jumbo Visma team already has 27 riders. under contract in 2024, and the Soudal Quick-Step team has 23. If the workforce were to merge into one, there would be no less than 50 riders under contract in this new training, apart from the regulations only authorizes 30. If some would have no difficulty in joining, find a way out, and would not necessarily be retained, others could well find themselves left behind. There would also be layoffs across the country. provide in the staff and management of the two teams.

According to WielerFlits and other corroborating sources, Primoz Roglic is already interested in joining. many teams (Bahrain Victorious, Jayco-AlUla, Lidl-Trek and Movistar), who would even be ready to play. buy out his last year of contract to see him race under their colors from 2024. Remco Evenepoel is announced insistently at Ineos Grenadiers, which is looking for a large-scale leader and who has the means to afford it. The leaders of Soudal Quick-Step, like their Dutch counterparts, would nevertheless count on him, including in the event of a merger. But cohabitation with Jonas Vingegaard in particular could be difficult.

Rather for 2025?

In this context, the 2025 horizon may seem ;be more reasonable for this merger, since the number of riders under contract will then be much lower, and certain sponsorship contracts end at a later date. At the end of 2024, there are still thorny questions to be answered. to solve, to solve start with that of the women's teams and the development teams, which also have two full squads. Finally, the Specialized cycle brand could remain loyal to this brand. Remco Evenepoel and its arrival as a supplier would be viewed favorably by Ineos Grenadiers. But Specialized also maintains close ties with the leaders of the Soudal Quick-Step team, while Cervélo, the cycle supplier of the Jumbo Visma, would also like to be part of the merger project.< /p>

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116