The rumors were confirmed Sunday in a report in WielerFlits that relied on several anonymous sources, according to whom current Jumbo-Visma head Richard Plugge will become CEO of the new team, Jumbo’s sports director Merijn Zeeman becomes head coach and Soudal’s chief Patrick Levefere is to be a member of the team’s Supervisory Board.
But it is the fates of the two team’s 50 combined riders that is of even greater interest, especially those of this year’s Giro d’Italia winner Primož Roglič, who has reportedly been wooed by several teams, and Soudal’s young superstar Remco Evenepoel. Should the merger be finalized – and WielerFlits reported that it is just a matter of time and ironing out a few details – then Roglič would almost surely leave Soudal-Visma (or Visma-Soudal).
According to CyclingUptoDate, four teams have already lined up with offers for the 33-year-old Slovenian and approached him during the recent Vuelta: Bahrain Victorious, Jayco AlUla, Lidl Trek and Movistar. Each of these teams is looking for a marquee rider who can bring them to the next level in Grand Tour racing, and Roglič certainly fits that bill, despite his age. His performance in the Giro and in the Vuelta this year, in which he finished a very strong third, proves that he is as good as he has ever been.
As for Evenepoel, if Soudal is swallowed up by Visma, it is also much more likely that this year’s world time trial champion will jump ship as well. Frustrated in the two Grand Tours he entered in 2023 and not entirely happy with Soudal-QuickStep’s lack of experienced Tour de France domestiques, the 23-year-old has reportedly been flirting with several teams. But he has been most strongly linked to an eventual move to Ineos Grenadiers, whose Grand Tour experience and deep pockets would be a great fit.
In addition, it’s difficult to see how a super-ambitious rider like Evenepoel could accept sharing the spotlight and the spoils with several teammates. He is currently the heart, soul and engine of Soudal-QuickStep. Could he really ride on a team that includes the two-time Tour champion Jonas Vingegaard and a strong Classics rival in Wout van Aert? Put another way, would Vingegaard give up his Tour de France ambitions for Evenepoel, or vice versa? No and no. As his father, Patrick Evenepoel, put it to Sporza, “We are shocked, and so is Remco. We don’t know anything. Remco Evenepoel together with Jonas Vingegaard, Primož Roglič, Sepp Kuss and Wout van Aert would be many leaders in one team.” Too many leaders is what he probably meant to say. I wouldn’t be surprised if Evenepoel had already started packing his bags.
One of the big transfers of this season so far has been the move by the 33-year-old Spaniard Mikel Landa from Bahrain Victorious to Soudal, brought in by Lefevere to give Evenepoel a top climber and experienced Grand Tour rider to support his Tour de France ambitions. This move made Bahrain Victorious immediately in need of a top rider and especially eager to sign Roglič. And a future Soudal-Visma team would have in Landa a very strong domestique to aid Vingegaard and Kuss, if the American wants to continue on his Grand Tour journey, started almost accidentally with his victory in this year’s Vuelta.
There are many questions that need to be answered before anything definitive can be said about next year’s road racing competition. But it certainly looks as if the next few months will be busy ones for riders’ agents and cycling journalists.