Amid rumors of contracted riders and staff left jobless by a merger between the Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step teams, the UCI said in a statement that “any such operation” must comply with the governing body’s regulations and in particular the contractual provisions for all ex-team staff members.
The UCI’s statement, released on Tuesday, comes as progress in the possible merger between two of cycling’s biggest teams continues. Developments indicate, however, that the situation appears to be more of a takeover than a merger, as Wielerflits reports as few as six of the 23 riders with contracts on Soudal Quick-Step for 2024 will have spots on the new team.
Yves Lampaert is said to be one of them, with Wout van Aert reportedly informing Jumbo-Visma management he would welcome support from his countryman who has a strong pedigree in the Classics, while the Dutch team is also counting on Remco Evenepoel joining their formation despite continuing hints the former World Road Champion could be on his way to Ineos Grenadiers.
Jumbo-Visma’s current roster for 2024 contains 26 riders. That’s two fewer than a month ago after Nathan van Hooydonck was forced to retire prematurely due to a medical incident and the imminent departure of Primož Roglič, with the latest rumours indicating the Slovenian will be off to Bora-Hansgrohe. Both Gazzetta dello Sport and GCN report that a lucrative long-term deal that gives Roglič leadership at next year’s Tour de France is all but signed.
Presuming Tobias Foss, the only current Jumbo-Visma rider whose 2024 is unclear, is off to Ineos Grenadiers as rumoured, Jumbo-Visma would still somehow have to free up two spots in next year’s squad to comply with the UCI-maximum of 30 while fitting in the reported six arrivals from Quick-Step.
Alongside WorldTour signings Matteo Jorgenson from Movistar and Ben Tulett from Ineos Grenadiers, three riders from the Jumbo-Visma Development Team are set to step up to the senior squad in 2024, so that could be one potential avenue that could provide some wiggle room.
In its statement, the UCI says the integrity of contractual provisions to “riders, but also team management and other staff such as doctors, mechanics, sports assistants, drivers etc.” is of “prime importance” to the governing body.
Current UCI regulations state that by October 15, teams must submit a bank guarantee that represents “one quarter of all the gross sums due for payment by the UCI WorldTeam to riders and persons under contract for the operation of the team during the registration year plus the amount of CHF 15,000 [~$16,000]. In no case may the amount of the bank guarantee be less than CHF 975,000 [~$1,058,000].”
The rules also state that at least 10 people who are not riders or sports directors (such as coaches, doctors, soigneurs, or mechanics, for example) must be employed on a full-time basis for the whole registration year. With the length and type of contracts of staff members less well-publicised than for riders, it is hard to know how precarious is the employment situation of the huge amount of Soudal Quick-Step backrooms staff, but you would imagine it’s not looking great for them.
The UCI goes on to state that while both Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step renewed their WorldTour licences last year until 2025, if one of the teams cannot continue, the number of WorldTour teams would decrease from 18 to 17 for the next two years, increasing the number of ProTeams that are automatically invited to WorldTour events. So rather than Soudal Quick-Step’s licence also being up for sale, it will simply disappear.
The statement also stresses the upcoming team registration deadline on October 15, which involves teams being checked for “compliance with administrative, financial and ethical criteria.”
“Any significant change in a team’s situation must be duly reported during the upcoming registration procedure so it can be assessed, in accordance with the UCI Regulations,” the governing body said.
The list of teams who’ve successfully registered by the October 15 deadline will be released by the UCI on October 19, which then gives riders on teams not on the list the opportunity to join another team without having to give prior notice or paying compensation.
However, with many WorldTour rosters filling up, the 19 riders supposedly not in the plans of the takeover team will find themselves at the sharp end of a ecosystem realignment that keeps the heads of the sport’s most successful squad above water.
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