Riding is Life


Visma announces extended contracts for stars, unveils new kit and Uijtdebroeks

The 2024 team presentation included new deals for Jonas Vingegaard, Sepp Kuss, and Fem van Empel.

Joe Lindsey
by Joe Lindsey 21.12.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Note: On Thursday evening in Europe, hours after the presentation, Bora-Hansgrohe announced it had mutually terminated Cian Uijtdebroeks’ contract, freeing him to transfer to Visma. This story has been updated.

The Visma-Lease a Bike team unveiled its 2024 roster on Thursday, and the biggest takeaway was that even amid upheaval, the team will remain a formidable force in pro cycling for the foreseeable future.

Key to that were contract extensions announced for a core group of stars: two-time Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard is now signed an additional year, through 2028, with Vuelta a España winner Sepp Kuss extended three years, through 2027. That certainly puts to rest any immediate indication that Kuss might look elsewhere for his own ambitions following his breakthrough Grand Tour win last fall. “This team is like a family. I feel at home here,” Kuss said in a press release announcing the news.

Even the women’s team, which has seen major shakeups in both roster and management the past few months, gets a measure of stability with the news that Fem van Empel will ride for the team through 2027. Van Empel, who is just 21 and joined the team this year, hasn’t raced much on the road but has shown significant promise at events like the Giro Donne and Tour de l’Avenir Femmes, and of course is the reigning World Cyclocross Champion in the midst of a so-far undefeated season.

While there is sponsor changeover with the departure of the Jumbo supermarket chain, even the kits will remain easily recognizable to fans with their distinctive black-and-yellow scheme.

Ben Tulett, Cian Uijtdebroeks, and Matteo Jorgenson take part in a Visma-Lease a Bike team presentation. They're seated on couches and chairs and Jorgenson holds the microphone as he answers a question.
Cheeky: Visma had Cian Uijtdebroeks (center, flanked by Ben Tulett on the left and Matteo Jorgenson) on hand even though his transfer wouldn’t be official until hours after the presentation.

Under the surface, however, there’s more churn than meets the eye. In seeming defiance of present reality, Visma included claimed transfer Cian Uijtdebroeks in its presentation, even wearing Visma-Lease a Bike kit. That was even as his contract dissolution and transfer from Bora-Hansgrohe remained in dispute and the UCI – which must approve the move – officially listed the Belgian on Wednesday as a Bora rider on its 2024 team lineup.

Visma and general manager Richard Plugge have already come under intense criticism for appearing to poach an under-contract rider, and it raised eyebrows to have Uijtdebroeks on stage in Visma kit. Thursday evening, however, Bora announced it had mutually terminated his contract, clearing the last obstacle for his transfer, which is now official. But in a sign of lingering tensions, Bora manager Ralph Denk again refuted the allegations of bullying (which he claimed did not originate with Cian). Denk said he hopes the saga will be “an isolated incident for the entire cycling family,” adding pointedly, “let’s respect contracts and rules, let’s be fair with each other.”

Fem van Empel holds up a Cervelo S5 road bike in team paint at the Visma-Lease a Bike team presentation. She's wearing the team's bright yellow and black kit and smiling as she's framed by the bike's main tubes.
Van Empel presents a bright spot of amazing talent on the women’s side, but her road racing career is only just starting.

On the women’s side, Van Empel is a prominent face on a revamped team that has new management with the departure of Esra Tromp and Carmen Small to run the new EF Education-Cannondale team, plus turnover of more than a third of its roster, including the departure of stalwarts like Coryn Labecki and Kim Cadzow to said EF team. Veteran pros Marianne Vos and Reijanne Markus will lead the third-youngest team in the Women’s WorldTour, with half its roster 22 years old or less.

And while Jumbo has been replaced by bikemaker Pon’s “Lease a Bike” program as co-title sponsor, that deal was simply announced as “indefinite.” With Visma investing a reported €12 million for 2024, that leaves the team heavily dependent on Pon through both the Lease a Bike title sponsorship and Cervélo as the team’s bike partner.

None of that, however, affects Visma’s 2024 plans, which it also detailed. As expected, Vingegaard will focus on a third straight Tour title, while Kuss is penciled in for a defense of his red jersey at the Vuelta. Wout van Aert will ride a schedule focused on getting that elusive cobbled Monument win, followed by stage-hunting at the Giro d’Italia and will also skip the Tour de France. While it wasn’t mentioned, the Olympic road race and time trial are also likely major targets for him. New signee Matteo Jorgenson will lead the team at Paris-Nice, where he was eighth overall in 2023, before transitioning to a support role for Van Aert in the Classics and for the team’s stage-race objectives. For his part, Uijtdebroeks is reportedly set to race the Giro d’Italia.

It’s a pivotal year for the Dutch superteam, coming off arguably the best-ever season by a men’s pro cycling team, debuting a new sponsor, and attempting to replace one of the generational talents who helped build it into the powerhouse it is today: absent from the presentation, of course, was Giro d’Italia winner Primož Roglič, an off-season transfer to Bora who will attempt to finally win that elusive Tour title and deny his former teammate a three-peat.

If you fancy the full 90-minute presentation, the team has helpfully offered it up for on-demand viewing.

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