Jumbo-Visma has responded in emphatic terms to Escape Collective’s report on Thursday of the existence of discussions between one of its star riders, Primož Roglič, and rival team Lidl-Trek.
“There has been zero discussion. So I think it’s a complete bullshit story,” Jumbo-Visma directeur sportif Merjin Zeeman told GCN.
Escape Collective’s sources indicate the opposite, that discussions have taken place. A separate question is the success of those discussions, and whether the large hurdle that is Roglič’s existing contract can be overcome.
Jumbo makes its pitch
The Dutch super team made clear its intention to retain Roglič. Speaking with AD, Zeeman made the case for the success of the team’s co-leadership model at previous Tours de France. He also indicated that Roglič would not be put on a Giro/Vuelta program in 2024, and will instead have the opportunity to start the Tour alongside the team’s defending champion, Jonas Vingegaard.
“A Tour team with Primož is stronger than a team without Primož,” he said. “I haven’t disputed that this year either, but the Giro is also a fantastic race, and we had never won it before. Primož and Jonas have often ridden together before. We believe that you always perform better when you come up with a plan together that everyone supports.
“Every year, it will become harder to win. We will have to be even better every year than the year before. The competition is not standing still and will be stronger than this year. So, it’s a logical idea that they will go to the Tour together.”
Whether Roglič chooses to push for a move, or not, largely depends on his own aspirations and whether he views the dual-leadership model as lining up with those aspirations. He has indicated a number of times that he intends to return to the Tour de France and would like to win it. Jumbo is saying that a return is on the cards. His window for a win is narrowing; time waits for no Tour contender.
The GC rider market
The market for top general classification riders is tight as the biggest teams pick up as many second-tier GC riders as they can before turning them into super domestiques. GC talent and the super domestiques required to support a modern GC run are coalescing mostly within two teams: Jumbo-Visma and UAE-Team Emirates.
UAE has Pogačar, of course, as well as Adam Yates, Juan Ayuso, and João Almeida, and the team just signed Pavel Sivakov from Ineos. Jumbo has Vingegaard, Roglič, Wilco Kelderman, and Sepp Kuss, plus their multi-talented superstars like Wout van Aert and a newly-signed Matteo Jorgenson.
The question, if you’re a manager for any team but Jumbo or UAE, is how do you take these two down?
On the periphery of these two superpowers are Soudal-QuickStep, with Remco Evenepoel and new signing Mikel Landa. Lidl-Trek is there, too, with new signing Tao Geoghegan-Hart and Mattias Skjelmose looking to the future. Ineos has Geraint Thomas but is also haemorrhaging young talent.
The ongoing saga around Evenepoel is a symptom of this narrow market. Any team general manager casting a gaze around the pro peloton in search of a rider capable of maybe, possibly toppling Vingegaard and Pogačar will land on Evenepoel as one of the only options – hence all the stories about Ineos, which still has one of the largest budgets in the sport, trying to pry him away.
Another option is Roglič, of course. Winner of the most recent Giro, capable on his day of competing with Vingegaard and Pogačar. At 33 he’s closer to the end of his career than the start of it, but by all accounts still has plenty left to give. “A rider with his palmarès and racing craft would really align with the vision we have for the team,” Lidl-Trek GM Luca Guercilena said when we reached out for our initial report.
Stealing Vingegaard or Pogačar away from their purpose-built teams is impossible. Grabbing Remco looks to be incredibly expensive, if it’s possible at all. So who does a GM eye up? A rider who looks to have a couple of top rides left to give, whose current team situation may provide an incentive to consider a move.
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