The wheels are in motion for two of the biggest rumours in cycling this autumn. The prospect of a Jumbo Quick-Step merger moved from the shadows and into possible reality as the UCI was notified of a potential proposed coupling, while the Dutch team is also said to have informed Primož Roglič he is free to leave the squad.
Jumbo-Visma’s managing director Richard Plugge met with UCI President David Lappartient to discuss the proposed merger, Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reports, and a further call between Plugge, the UCI and a Soudal Quick-Step representative is scheduled for next week.
The Quick-Step boss, Patrick Lefevere, has denied visiting the Jumbo-Visma service course earlier this week after there were reports he’d been spotted at the Dutch team’s HQ in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, on Monday.
Fifty kilometres to the east in Breda, however, a meeting did take place between Jumbo-Visma and Specialized, Soudal Quick-Step’s bike sponsor. Het Laatste Nieuws also reports, interestingly, that one of Lefevere’s main sponsors, the sealant and adhesive company Soudal, has not yet been involved in any discussions.
The next two weeks should see further significant steps if there is a deal to be done. This is because of the UCI’s October 15 deadline for WorldTour licences, whereby the governing body has to be in possession of each top-tier team’s bank guarantee, team name, main sponsors, and names of team managers and riders. What would happen to a vacated WorldTour spot is still unclear.
Of course, there are exceptions to the October 15 deadline. You can pay a fine for late submission or extenuating circumstances can provide you with an extension, as was the case with the revamped B&B Hotels project last year before it imploded.
Crucially, another piece of the puzzle may also be falling into place. Jumbo-Visma has told Primož Roglič he is free to leave the team with more than two years still to run on his contract.
Dutch outlet Wielerflits reports team managers have been made aware Roglič can depart Jumbo-Visma in return for a fee. This is what Roglič wants given he has fallen behind Jonas Vingegaard in the pecking order of GC leaders and the fact he will be 34 by the start of the next Tour de France. Time is running out for him to complete his set of Grand Tour victories.
Amidst this September’s Vuelta a España leadership drama, Roglič seemed less willing to accept the fact he and Vingegaard would have to settle for the minor podium spots and stop attacking the red jersey of their teammate Sepp Kuss, saying in post-stage interviews that he had a “responsibility to himself” to win.
Regardless, Jumbo-Visma called the Slovenian their “king,” having won three Vueltas and a Giro in their jersey, as well as a host of other stage race victories, and they seemed reluctant to let him walk to a rival while under contract until the end of 2025.
Jumbo-Visma’s discussions with Specialized point to the possibility they could take over from Cervélo, and this would be a key factor in retaining the services of Remco Evenepoel in this new team. Not only would Roglič’s departure aid budgetary requirements for absorbing Evenepoel but it would also lessen the task of balancing the ambition of Vingegaard, Evenepoel and Wout van Aert in a single squad.
Ineos Grenadiers appear to be in the driving seat to acquire Roglič’s services, Wielerflits sources suggest, and the British team has both the budget and supporting cast to back up a Tour de France GC tilt next summer. Bahrain-Victorious and Lidl-Trek are also potential destinations but the suggestion is that the British squad has its cheque book out ready to secure the sort of GC leader they’ve been desperately missing the past few seasons. Roglič will apparently make a decision on his future by Sunday, October 1.
Roglič’s arrival would also dampen Ineos Grenadiers interest in Remco Evenepoel, with a potential merger between Ineos and Soudal Quick-Step, primarily in order to acquire the Belgian’s services, another long-running rumour that captured the imagination this summer.
The situation is clearly gathering pace now, yet a merger between 2023’s dominant squad Jumbo-Visma and cycling’s most historically successful team Soudal Quick-Step still appears bizarre, and more to the point utterly unthinkable a week ago. This is a sentiment shared by Ineos riders Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe on their podcast Watts Occurring.
“Why would Jumbo even want that, they’ve just won the three Grand Tours? But how can you not find a sponsor?” Thomas said.
Even without a World Championships this September, it’s shaping up to be one of the most intriguing, era-shifting months in the sport’s modern history. By this time next week, who even knows what the top squads of the sport will look like or where the best riders will be housed.
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