In the cycling community, whispers of a potential merger between Jumbo-Visma and Soudal-QuickStep have been generating considerable buzz. WielerFlits broke the news on Sunday, leaving many, including former Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas and his teammate Luke Rowe, in a state of disbelief.
During a recent episode of their podcast, "Watts Occurring," Thomas exclaimed in surprise, "I had no clue about this until just now!" Furthermore, he expressed skepticism regarding the possibility of Remco Evenepoel, known for his friction with Jumbo-Visma competitors, joining the ranks of his erstwhile adversaries. “Given the existing animosity, I can't envision Remco aligning with Jumbo. Perhaps if they're on different schedules,” Thomas conjectured. He even hinted at the backstage drama, alluding to Roglič's comments on Remco, a statement playfully goaded by Rowe.
One central enigma surrounding this merger is Jumbo's decision to terminate its sponsorship with the Dutch team by 2024's end, despite the team's commendable record of three Grand Tour victories. Rowe shed some light on this, remarking, "The crux lies in Jumbo retracting their primary sponsorship." He expressed grave concerns about the sustainability of cycling sponsorships, considering a high-performing team like Jumbo-Visma struggles to secure a headline sponsor.
Cycling Merger Risks Job Redundancies
Thomas, chiming in, emphasized the team's notable achievements and expressed his bewilderment over their inability to attract another sponsor. Especially given their domination in recent seasons and having star riders like Van Aert.
However, beyond sponsorship woes, there's a tangible human element at play. A merger of such magnitude puts numerous jobs at risk, with a roster of approximately 50 contracted riders facing potential redundancy. Rowe elaborated on the implications: “If you merge, there's an excess of 20 riders. So, the logical step would be to retain the more cost-effective players, inevitably leading to contract buyouts for the others."
Such fiscal extravagance is not only restricted to riders. Staffing redundancies can be expected, potentially adding to the sport's growing list of economic woes. Both Thomas and Rowe express concern over the lack of foresight in such a merger, emphasizing the countless jobs at stake, including roles like soigneurs.
The cycling community's reaction to the rumored merger has predominantly been of apprehension and concern. Thomas and Rowe are among the many voices, including Brian Holm and Philippe Gilbert, echoing worries about the adverse impact this could have on riders' careers and the broader economic landscape of professional cycling.