Cycling's rumor mill is buzzing with talks of a potential merger between elite teams Soudal-QuickStep and Jumbo-Visma. Patrick Lefevere, the chief of Soudal-QuickStep, remains non-committal about these rumors, even in light of a recent report from WielerFlits suggesting the forthcoming unification.
Should these rumors come to fruition, the merged 'super-team' could emerge under names like Visma-Soudal or Soudal-Visma by 2024. Yet, several uncertainties surround this speculated merger, including the final team composition and which riders would grace the spotlight in the eventual 30-member crew.
Following an Anderlecht soccer game, Lefevere was approached by Sporza for comments regarding the news, but he cleverly deflected their inquiries. Interestingly, while Lefevere claimed to be without his phone, he was spotted holding one, perhaps trying to sidestep the erupting news storm. "If you wish to rely on WielerFlits, be my guest,” Lefevere remarked before hastily departing.
Merger Sparks Tour Leadership Queries
While Soudal-QuickStep remains silent about the merger, Jumbo-Visma was also discreet, stating they "never comment on rumors." Flemish outlets hint at the team weighing various futures, including potential sponsorship adjustments.
This merger raises valid questions, primarily surrounding leadership roles in the prestigious Tour de France. Key players like Remco Evenepoel, Primož Roglič, and others would undeniably eye leadership positions. Rumors suggest that Evenepoel might be enticed by Jumbo-Visma's vast Grand Tour expertise, though this would also signal the end of certain contracts, enticing teams like Ineos Grenadiers to make their play.
A past conversation between Richard Plugge (Jumbo-Visma’s team manager) and Lefevere unveiled some financial strains. They compared cycling's budgetary dynamics to Formula 1, highlighting the vast disparities in team budgets.
Jumbo-Visma has shone this 2023 season, securing wins in all three Grand Tours. However, sponsor Jumbo will be parting ways by 2024's close, spurring tales of Saudi Arabian sponsorships which Plugge negated.
With these merger talks, the combined team could rival budget giants like UAE Team Emirates and Ineos Grenadiers. Lefevere had previously discussed the budgetary constraints in a 2022 De Morgen interview.
The UCI's impending WorldTour licence application deadlines further complicate this merger narrative. As speculations continue, fans and experts will be keeping a close watch on any definitive announcements.