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 media no Dutchman 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 been around for a long time. 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 also validated the project. the idea of this merger, such as Richard Plugge who would become CEO of the team and Patrick Lefevere who would lead 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 usher in a paradigm shift in the world of cycling: the emergence of financially and sportingly dominant teams, concentrating most of the greatest talents in cycling.
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 in recent 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 b It benefits from around 27 million. Conversely, the majority 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 wereé the only teams é Be able to place a rider on a Grand Tour podium this year. The Jumbo Visma won won all three events and even monopolized the competition. the Vuelta podium. The 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 among more different teams, but also to encourage the most ingenious and best-working teams, rather than the richest. In 2018, at the time of his election, the shortlist ;UCI resident David Lappartient already said: "The salary cap is an objective medium term […] The idea is that we can have good riders in each of the teams. That we do 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 # 39;such a reform remains very hypothetical, and there is no doubt that certain teams are firmly opposed to it.
Departures plan ?
While awaiting further information, the leaders of the two teams concerned did not wish to respond. comment 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 to form one, there would be no less than 50 riders under contract in this new formation, apart from the regulations only authorizing 30. If some would have no problem at all find a way out, and would not necessarily be retained, others could well find themselves left behind. There would also be layoffs à plan in the staff and management of the two teams.
According to WielerFlits and other corroborating sources, Primoz Roglic is already interested in many teams (Bahreïn Victorious, Jayco-AlUla, Lidl-Trek and Movistar), which would even be ready to take part. 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.
Pretty much for 2025 ?
In this context, the 2025 horizon perhaps seems more reasonable for this merger, since the number of riders under contract will then be much lower, and certain contracts sponsorship ends à the end of the year 2024. In addition, there remain thorny questions to be answered. 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 the brand. Remco Evenepoel and its arrival as a supplier would be viewed favorably at Ineos Grenadiers. But Specialized also maintains close links with the leaders of the Soudal Quick-Step team, while Cervélo, the cycle supplier for the Jumbo Visma, would also like to make part of the merger project.