The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the sport’s governing body, has weighed in on the speculative merger between cycling powerhouses Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step. Should the merger materialise, the WorldTour will slim down to 17 teams, triggering a domino effect on the sport’s structure and sustainability.
Last week, rumours surfaced about the Dutch team Jumbo-Visma and the Belgian outfit Soudal Quick-Step merging forces. This raised concerns not only about the future of riders and staff but also about the sport’s long-term viability. UCI has made it clear that any merger must align with UCI Regulations to ensure that contractual provisions are upheld for all team members, from riders to medical staff.
Reducing the number of WorldTour teams to 17 for the 2024 and 2025 seasons would have implications. Specifically, it would pave the way for more UCI ProTeams to be automatically invited to WorldTour events. Notably, this eliminates the opportunity for teams like Israel-Premier Tech and Uno-X, who had expressed interest in joining the WorldTour, to secure a spot.
The announcement comes amid a wave of reactions within the cycling community. Ilan Van Wilder, a Soudal Quick-Step rider, recently voiced his opposition to the merger following his victory at Tre Valli Varesine. Van Wilder said that the team’s performance proves its competence and wishes for it to continue as an independent entity. He’s one of the first to publicly disapprove of the proposed union that would result in the dissolution of Soudal Quick-Step, with Jumbo-Visma absorbing parts of their Belgian competitors.
It is worth mentioning that both Soudal and Visma have confirmed their willingness to maintain title sponsor status if the merger goes ahead. Visma’s director of content and sponsorship, Anne-Grethe Thomle Karlsen, reiterated the company’s long-term commitment to the sport. Likewise, Soudal’s Marko Heijl emphasised that name sponsorship is a cornerstone of their marketing strategy, and they intend to stick with it.
Moreover, Amazon is touted as a prospective investor in the merged “super-team,” although details remain sketchy. Reports suggest that only six riders from Soudal Quick-Step would transition to Jumbo-Visma, leaving dozens of others and many staff members jobless.
UCI has urged teams to register for an administrative, financial, and ethical review and plans to release a list of compliant teams on October 19. Riders from non-compliant teams will be free to transfer without prior notice or compensation.
In summary, while the proposed merger is still in the realm of speculation, it has already sparked a series of debates and concerns, affecting stakeholders from riders to sponsors. The UCI is clear on its stance – any shift in team dynamics must be transparent and adhere to regulations, underscoring the regulatory body’s pivotal role in a period of potential seismic change in professional cycling.