The team that pulled off an unprecedented Grand Tour sweep in 2023 claims it is adding more Grand Tour firepower to its ranks, but its surprise roster move turned to chaos and confusion just hours later.
Jumbo-Visma announced on Saturday afternoon that 20-year-old Belgian up-and-comer Cian Uijtdebroeks will leave Bora-Hansgrohe one year before his contract there expires to join the squad that will come January 1 be known as Visma-Lease a Bike. Just as significant, Uijtdebroeks’ new deal is said to be for four seasons.
“Cian is a perfect fit for our team,” said sportive director Merijn Zeeman in a press release announcing the signing. “He wants to develop in all areas. We are happy that he has chosen us and our approach.”
But just as the story broke, Bora responded with a communication of its own, stating in a two-sentence e-mail that read simply, “Cian is and will remain a member of Bora-Hansgrohe, also in the coming 2024 season. He is contractually bound with us until December 31, 2024.”
Uijtdebroeks himself then got into the act, re-posting a statement from his management, A&J Allsports, that his contract with Bora had been terminated on December 1 and “legal proceedings already have been initiated.”
The result is a highly unusual and confusing dispute that raises questions about both Uijtdebroeks’ future and also the miscommunications between the teams and Uijtdebroeks’ agent over contract negotiations. That, thankfully, didn’t stop at least one other team from having a bit of fun with it.
Uijtdebroeks was a highly touted prospect as a teenager who turned pro with Bora at just 18 in 2022, and later that year he stormed to the overall title and two stage wins at the Tour de l’Avenir. He followed that up with top 10s at several WorldTour stage races this season, including finishing eighth overall at his debut Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España.
Reports emerged during the season, however, that a rift had grown between Uijtdebroeks and Bora, including “tension” between himself and fellow GC rider Aleksandr Vlasov during the Vuelta. That led to further rumors that Uijtdebroeks might be interested in a change of scenery after his contract expired at the end of 2024, or even sooner. Not two weeks ago he told VTM that much of the talk of his potential departure for 2024 was “incorrect” and noted he was under contract for one more year, but he then added, “would I stay in the team until next year? I’m not going to answer that.”
As of Saturday, that answer looked to be Visma, where he would join a strong cadre of Grand Tour riders that obviously includes Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard and Vuelta a España winner Sepp Kuss, as well as the versatile Wout van Aert, whose own ambitions may become a bit clearer after the upcoming Giro d’Italia.
But Bora’s terse message throws that into serious doubt. With a valid, enforceable contract, Uijtdebroeks’ only avenue to leave is with Bora’s permission, which would certainly include a buyout. As is evident from Bora’s stance, no such deal has been reached, and it’s unclear how soon any legal action might resolve the situation.
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