It was over before it began, apparently.
Multiple reports and sources on Friday claim that the blockbuster merger between the Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step teams, first publicly revealed less than two weeks ago by Wielerflits, is off.
UPDATE: After this report posted, a Jumbo spokesperson confirmed to Dutch outlet NOS that the merger will not happen. The spokesperson called a deal “not the best option,” adding that the team wants to be “future-proof even after the era of Jumbo as the main sponsor … what is the best option will be apparent later.”
Exactly what derailed the combination is not clear, but Escape Collective‘s sources indicate that at least part of the issue came down to equipment partner agreements. Specialized had been widely expected to assume a major role as the bike sponsor after the merger, but Cervelo, and parent company PON, have a valid sponsorship agreement with Jumbo through at least the 2024 season and were reportedly unwilling to let it go.
Soudal manager Patrick Lefevere may have unwittingly signaled problems with the deal when he wrote last Saturday in his Het Laatste Nieuws column that more information should be coming on Monday (October 2), and that “this cannot continue for three more days.” Monday passed with no confirmation of the deal, as did the rest of the week.
Soudal and Jumbo team press agents did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
If the merger truly is off, for good, it may reshape the sport in similarly vast ways as would a tie-up, albeit over a longer time period. Soudal Quick-Step will reportedly continue on as before, with Soudal in particular remaining a committed supporter of Patrick Lefevere’s team and Specialized as bike sponsor. Sporza reports that Zdenek Bakala, the team’s majority owner, will continue his support at least through 2025 but wants to exit after that.
Jumbo will also continue with both of its title sponsors, but the team faces a reckoning as Jumbo’s sponsorship ends after the 2024 season. According to Dutch media outlet AD, the rumored Amazon sponsorship that was reported last week is also now off, and PON will help cover some of the team’s budget for 2024.
Jumbo will also enter the 2024 season without one of its best racers, as Bora-Hansgrohe manager Ralph Denk announced today in a press conference that the team has signed Primož Roglič to a multi-year deal after the Slovenian rider secured an early release from his contract at Jumbo. Whatever buyout Jumbo got for letting Roglič go early (rumored to be as high as €5 million) will also help fill any budget shortfalls.
But the team faces a ticking clock to secure new title sponsorship, and raises the uncomfortable prospect that the sport’s most successful outfit could simply wink out of existence at the end of next season. Lefevere also faces challenges if Bakala does intend to exit the sport after 2025.
The failure of a merger also presents some challenges for other teams, most notably Ineos Grenadiers and Movistar. Both have far fewer than the UCI’s WorldTour minimum of 25 contracted riders for next season, and without a merger dumping a dozen or more riders into the transfer market late in the year, they may scramble to renew departing riders who otherwise would have been let go.
A key deadline is October 15, when formal WorldTour applications are due with the UCI, which will release the list of teams four days later. Teams may apply after the deadline, but the initial list will offer some important clues about the WorldTour lineup.
All of that will ripple through the WorldTour for the 2024 season and beyond. The ultimate effects, of course, are unknown, but from a fan perspective, the competitive parity in the WorldTour has improved. Just a week ago, the sport was looking at the prospect of a formidable Jumbo-Soudal with winners of the last five Grand Tours, and the combination of two of the best Classics teams in the sport. Now, fans will be treated to a possible Tour de France with Roglič, Remco Evenepoel, Jonas Vingegaard, and Tadej Pogačar on separate teams.
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