Merger might not be the right word for what is potentially occurring between Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step. More accurate might be ‘takeover,’ given that, if the deal is done, Jumbo will remain mostly intact while Soudal looks set to be largely obliterated. At least one rider on the Belgian squad is vocally displeased.
Ilan Van Wilder took victory at Tre Valli Varesine on Tuesday and dedicated the win to his teammates and team staff, while pushing back on the proposed deal.
“It’s difficult weeks for us,” he said on the TV broadcast after his win. “This victory is really for my teammates and for our staff, to show we don’t agree with all this shit, and we want to continue Soudal Quick-Step. We are strong enough, and I hope it will be like this.”
Van Wilder wasn’t the only Soudal rider to speak up. Fabio Jakobsen, who is headed to Team DSM in 2024, spoke out after his final race of 2023, saying that the team “feels like family, so that would mean that half of my family would be split.”
“Many people see two top teams and that has to become one great team,” he said. “But I think there are at least 150 people in both organizations. If you merge two teams, it has to be halved. Because you can’t suddenly have 12 soigneurs or mechanics on the road when there are normally six of you.
“I am not going to experience it, because I am already away,” he said. “But I do look at it with a bit of pain in my stomach.”
According to Wielerflits, as few as six of the 23 riders with contracts on Soudal Quick-Step for 2024 will have spots on the new team, and the ratio is likely to be the same or worse for the Belgian team’s staff. Mechanics, chefs, media staff, soigneurs, logistics – there is a sizeable group of professionals that underpin any pro cycling team, and no indication as of yet what their fate may be.
On the rider side, a WorldTour team can have a maximum of 30 riders, and Jumbo-Visma’s current 2024 roster includes 26 riders. On Tuesday, the UCI issued its first statement on the matter, warning all parties that it will demand they fulfil their contractual obligations.
CPA President Adam Hansen released a statement on Twitter as well, noting that the rider’s union had “engaged in discussions with both the UCI and the teams,” and that while no concrete decisions have been made, “The UCI has assured us that the existing regulations will safeguard the riders’ contracts in accordance with current regulations.”
Editor’s Note: this story originally said Tre Valle Varesine was Van Wilder’s first pro win. It’s his second (or third, counting GC), following a stage and the overall at the Deutschland Tour earlier this year. Thanks to commenter Anders Tveit for noting the error.
What did you think of this story?