Jumbo-Visma working on merger with Soudal Quick-Step
foto: Cor Vos
Kerckhoffs Raymond
zondag 24 september 2023 om 18:29

Jumbo-Visma working on merger with Soudal Quick-Step

It is the biggest secret in cycling that has unfolded in recent months. As early as mid-July, Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step have been in talks to form a merger team by 2024. Several sources confirmed this to WielerFlits. Richard Plugge will become the team’s CEO. Merijn Zeeman will become head coach. Patrick Lefevere will become a member of the team’s supervisory board. According to insiders, it is only a matter of time before this spectacular and surprising merger is finalised.

The moment it became clear during the last Tour de France that British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe was in talks to take over Patrick Lefevere’s team (as WielerFlits published extensively at the time), the idea of talking to Zdenek Bakala, owner of Soudal Quick-Step, arose among the Jumbo-Visma management.

After a meeting in Geneva with Bakala, a basis to realise this grand and most surprising merger in cycling emerged fairly quickly. The idea of a merger team was also immediately embraced by the main sponsors in 2024 of both teams, Soudal and Visma.

Financially and sportingly, this would be a strong pairing, giving the team the resources to compete against teams with bigger budgets such as INEOS Grenadiers and UAE Emirates in the coming years.

Sepp Kuss and Remco Evenepoel teammates to be? – foto: Cor Vos

The new team, which will be registered with the UCI as Visma-Soudal or Soudal-Visma, this merger will allow it to work with a competitive budget from 2024 onwards to continue competing at the world’s top level. The team aims to establish itself as a Benelux team in the peloton. Where the sporting leadership will be in the hands of Plugge and Zeeman, Lefevere will supervise from the Supervisory Board.

Patrick Lefevere is now 68 years old and in recent times has regularly made public announcements that he would rather be active in the team in another role. He will have this opportunity in this new construction with a supervisory role.

Currently, Jumbo-Visma already employs 27 riders and Soudal Quick-Step 23 riders before 2024. Whether this merger will pave the way for Remco Evenepoel to move to INEOS Grenadiers is still unclear. Internally, at the new merger team, both sides have expressed an emphatic desire to continue with Evenepoel. However, the question is whether you can bundle top riders Remco Evenepoel, Primoz Roglic, Jonas Vingegaard and Wout van Aert into one team?

Wout Van Aert with Yves Lampaert – foto: Cor Vos

Although it is unclear anyway whether all the top players want to stay. During and after the past Vuelta a España, several WorldTeams have already indicated that they are interested in taking over Roglic and are willing to pay a ransom to do so. These include Bahrain Victorious, Jayco-AlUla, Lidl-Trek and Movistar.

For years, Evenepoel has been openly flirting with INEOS Grenadiers, which would have more to offer him as a team in support in and towards the grand tours than Lefevere’s current team. Although, of course, this situation becomes totally different with the pairing of Jumbo-Visma’s technical staff with that of Soudal Quick-Step. The time trial world champion can now be surrounded by the best resources and by a super strong team. However, the question is which position Evenepoel is content with alongside the likes of Vingegaard, Roglic and his compatriot Wout van Aert as the team’s absolute leaders.

Within the new merger team, the necessary pain points will have to be resolved in the coming weeks. What will the technical staff do with the redundant riders already under contract, who will not be easy to transfer to another team now.

Will the women’s teams of Jumbo-Visma and AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step and both Development teams be bundled? What will happen to various team managers and the permanent core of staff employed by both teams. Will Cérvelo (read Pon) remain the bike manufacturer or will it be Specialized which has had good and very close connections with Lefevere and Bakala for years. What happens to the second WorldTour licence the team will soon have.

Even with the UCI, there will first have to be some things to sort out. However, the past has shown that when backers want to go down this route, a construction is always found to carry it out.

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