In a dramatic U-turn, the much-touted merger between cycling powerhouses Jumbo-Visma and Soudal-Quick Step appears to be off the table. Patrick Lefevere, the managing force behind Soudal-Quick Step, and financial backer Zdenek Bakala, have reportedly decided to continue their alliance through to 2025. The implications for key rider Remco Evenepoel remain unclear.
Only a fortnight ago, the cycling world was agog at news of a potential fusion between the two top-tier teams. Both had signed a letter of intent during the summer. Jumbo-Visma, facing the withdrawal of Jumbo’s sponsorship post-2024, had entered discussions with Bakala. These talks, also attended by team managers Richard Plugge and Patrick Lefevere, seemed to suggest a significant reshaping of the sport’s landscape.
The initial revelation led to a raft of questions and created a climate of uncertainty that enveloped not just fans and pundits, but riders and staff alike. A roster limitation of 30 riders per team raised the existential dilemma: who would stay, and who would be forced out? While the legal and sporting ramifications were still being pondered, an air of anxiety persisted. October 18th was earmarked as the deadline for a decision by the UCI, the sport’s governing body.
Now, those questions can largely be consigned to the waste bin. Without the merger, the status quo seems likely to endure.
Jumbo-Visma has meanwhile announced a partnership with e-commerce giant Amazon, although details of this agreement have yet to be disclosed. On the Soudal-Quick Step front, Bakala aims to gradually reduce his involvement, but will maintain his partnership with Lefevere until 2025. Extra investment to strengthen the team around Remco Evenepoel seems unlikely, leaving the Belgian star’s future hanging in the balance.
The collapse of the merger plan may well be a reprieve for the Belgium-based team, which has been a staple of the pro cycling scene for over two decades. The furore over the possible merger had ratcheted up tensions, particularly within Lefevere’s outfit. Time was of the essence, especially with the UCI issuing a communiqué outlining impending deadlines. Yet, it now appears that the looming shadow of consolidation has lifted, although it remains to be seen how the aborted plans will affect Lefevere’s team in the upcoming season.
Talks had even reached an advanced stage, as evidenced by Jumbo-Visma’s discussions with Specialized, the cycle brand closely linked with Remco Evenepoel. The rider himself had also been in negotiations, heightening the sense of impending change. These recent developments have assuredly eased some tensions but have left a slew of unresolved issues. For now, the cycling world can only watch and wait, as the dust begins to settle on what has been a tumultuous couple of weeks in professional cycling.