Plot twist no. 3761: Patrick Lefevere might field a team using the existing Quick-Step licence

Our reporter's notebook is so full to the brim with squiggles that we might just chuck it out and go live in the wilderness.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 04.10.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Have you had enough yet?

With each passing day that the merger/takeover between Jumbo-Visma and Soudal-Quick-Step doesn’t happen, the question of ‘what’s the holdup?’ grows louder.

Well, here comes another wrinkle. Het Laatste Nieuws (proper journalists, proper Belgian) are suggesting Patrick Lefevere could still use the Soudal Quick-Step licence to field a team containing the riders not taken over to the new-look Jumbo-Visma.

“Lefevere to the rescue, hero status beckons,” our colleagues on the continent breathlessly write.

The article states that a number of Lefevere’s sponsors are still loyal to the 68-year-old and will not be involved in the takeover project. This potentially includes a number of names you may subconsciously have committed to memory Quick-Step, Latexco, Renson, Ekopak, Janom and, of course, Safety Jogger.

With those leftover sponsors are leftover riders. Ilan Van Wilder has been outspoken of the mess, which you would assume means he’s not in the plans of the new team, while the fates of Kasper Asgreen, Tim Merlier, Mikel Landa, and maybe even Julian Alaphilippe (if he doesn’t take the Sagan-shaped hole at TotalEnergies) are unknown.

The HLN article suggests Soudal’s contract was tied to Evenepoel, and whether he goes to Ineos Grenadiers or Jumbo-Visma, it looks like Soudal are a player in all of this. Either they still have Evenepoel in their kit at Soudal-Visma, or they have Wout van Aert and co. to help flog their adhesives to the Belgian public.

More stunningly, Het Laatste Nieuws suggests Jumbo could even be swapped over to Lefevere’s life raft and provide them with some funds for their final contracted year of sponsorship… I don’t know how this makes sense but the HLN boys will have had a reason to commit it to writing. This would also soothe a lot of potential problems and fallout for Jumbo-Visma. But it would also be utterly bonkers and cycling would certainly need turning off and turning on again to see if that fixes it.

We’ll have to see for ourselves in a couple of weeks whether there are two teams submitted in the UCI registration for the 2024 WorldTour.

The conversation between the two parties has been going on since July, while the news escaping into the media over the past few weeks has likely complicated some matters. Soudal-Quick-Step’s major shareholder, Zdeněk Bakala, was supposed to fly into Western Europe on Monday and the deal, in theory, would then gather speed ahead of the October 15 deadline for UCI registration. So what is slowing the process of filling Jumbo-Visma’s jumbo budget hole and potentially causing ruin for dozens of riders, staff and their families who won’t be included in the ‘new’ team?

Is the reported Amazon deal for €15 million of cash or €15 million of ‘exposure’? Lefevere said in his most recent column that Amazon changed everything, but who knows what his angle is currently. Another question: how are Soudal, who have been noisily stating that remaining a title sponsor of a cycling team is their key marketing goal, positioning themselves in all of this? Are the left-behind riders going to be given payouts? And how is that a cost-effective way of plugging a budgetary deficit?

The fact that Lefevere is even considering keeping the lights on at his team, when it had previously been assumed he was taking this opportunity to cash out his life’s work and go drink margaritas on a beach somewhere, would be further evidence that this is a takeover more than a merger. Sponsors and star riders may be increasingly concerned that Lefevere’s Midas touch was ebbing, and everyone is tired of the harsh and sometimes commercially concerning words he uses in the press. But Lefevere barely even owned the Soudal-Quick-Step team anymore. Increasingly, it looks like this merger may have happened over his head.

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