Moving Pieces

Remco Evenepoel’s future at Soudal-Quickstep’s been a background story all summer. Will he move or stay? Because he himself isn’t shutting down the story it points to a move but put aside the guesswork for a moment because any move is complicated but it’s worth exploring some angles given big contract riders looking to move mid-term is probably going to become a feature given the rise of long term deals and the sums involved.

The first thing to note is Evenepoel signed a contract in 2021 to ride for Soudal-Quickstep, as the team is called today, until the end of 2026.

Now it’s said he wants to move to another team for two reasons. First is for money, his palmarès is getting more lines and compared to star riders he thinks his contract should be worth more. Second he wants to win the Tour de France next July and the Belgian squad’s just doesn’t look like they’ll trouble the likes of Jumbo-Visma and UAE. Now of course he hasn’t said all this out loud but it’s the talk of the town. If you want to hear more, the Radio Cycling podcast has some good episodes this month and last detailing things in an English voice; in Dutch the Flemish newspapers are of course fascinated by the plot line too.

On the salary matter, there’s business to be done with the team, Evenepoel could ask for a pay rise but of course the team has budget and contracts with sponsors, they may think they’re on the hook already and can’t find millions more. Similarly if the team is to be strengthened then it’s getting late to go into the market. Mikel Landa’s move sounds like a done deal but he’s muy errático; George Bennett sounds like a good deal for that Sep Kuss-Adam Yates role. But these signings cost money, if team manager Patrick Lefevere has to go on a shopping spree, has he got the budget? If he does sign these riders, what does he do with them if Evenepoel still moves?

Lefevere could unload Julian Alaphilippe to another team and not hold out for a big fee to break the contract as this frees up budget for Quickstep. But easier said than done, is another team standing by with budget to spare? It’s here we start to see the complicated part to all of this, there are a lot of moving pieces, it’s like looking into the mechanism of a Swiss watch.

Plus if Lefevere wants to let Alaphilippe out of his contract… well he can hardly tell Evenepoel to follow his through to the end. The “we have a contract” line is being used by Lefevere and mainly towards Evenepoel’s entourage but the “he’s almost my son” vibe’s fading. A contract is one thing but it’s not worth much if you force a rider to see out the term and they’re miserable about it. But at the same time contracts exist for good reasons and can’t be seen as asymmetric. For example Ineos signed Egan Bernal but can’t put his deal in the shredder just because the Colombian had that horror crash, good. In the other direction a rich team shouldn’t be allowed to destabilise a poor team by flashing pieces of silver at a rider and whispering about bigger contracts, a distraction. This practice is sometimes called tampering or tapping up and while a free market might welcome employers being able to bid for talent, it can be pernicious in sports as it distracts and destabilises the athlete and the contract they have with their current team.

The UCI rulebook isn’t big on tampering but there’s a rule to say teams can’t sign riders before 1 August in the final season of their contract. This is widely skirted with teams sometimes signing riders 18 months out from a move. But crucially the rule still matters, these deals are pre-agreements, a promise to sign the UCI contract on the due date of 1 August or thereabouts. And with this in mind, it’s still a pre-agreement in case things to go litigation.

Another moving part is the future of the Soudal-Quickstep team. Soudal switched from rival Belgian team Lotto, and presumably a big part of this was the allure of sponsoring Evenepoel. Similarly Quick Step renewed its sponsorship in 2021 in May 2021 when Evenepoel fever was at a high going into the Giro. If Evenepoel leaves nothing says these sponsors will walk as well, but they will likely be disappointed as they’re supposed to be funding the star rider, the deal is they sponsor and Evenepoel is under contract. Absent Evenepoel and they might feel short changed. As such the big franchise in Belgian pro cycling is involved here.

One further element is the Soudal-Quickstep team, or Decolef SARL to use the legal entity’s real name, is only ~20% owned by Patrick Lefevere. The controlling shareholder of the team is Czech billionaire Zdeněk Bakala, a stalwart of this blog’s Wealthiest People in Pro Cycling reviews. As such Lefevere doesn’t even stand to gain much from agreeing to sell Evenepoel’s contract to, say, Ineos, if he wanted to sell the most of the funds go to Bakala who doesn’t really need the money, this is no golden retirement exit. There’s even been talk of selling up the team as a way for a rival team to acquire Evenepoel but this is expensive, like wanting to buy a big diamond from a jeweller and agreeing to buy all their stock, the premises and the staff. Only in cycling team takeovers never work like normal business mergers because you can’t combine 29 riders from one team with 30 from another, team sizes are capped at 30.

Another angle is that several teams are interested in Evenepoel. We’re all interested of course but here this means enquiring about hiring him and with an idea of the sums involved. It’s said Ineos are leading but Israel-PremierTech and Bora-hansgrohe are interested too, the latter has the backing of bike brand Specialized and it’s substantial marketing budget, it is know to pay plenty to sponsor teams and note it has two men’s World Tour teams and there’s also been Total Energies because “their” asset Peter Sagan moved there too. Ineos obviously have the budget and the most compelling need, not only are they losing several key riders, there’s the “yacht dinner party test” for a billionaire like Jim Ratcliffe, he might delight in seeing the pipeline of young riders but when he’s got guests on his yacht in the summer and someone asks how the Tour de France is going, he’d love to reply “we actually we’ve just won it”. Even if Ratcliffe is ready with the money, the recruitment decision could also impact other things such as the apparent belated interest to retain Carlos Rodriguez, reportedly a deal to Movistar but with Ineos said to be keen to retain him and others interested too. That could change if Evenepoel’s coming; similarly Carlos Verona was said to be going to Ineos, now the latest is he’s likely to renew with Movistar. So while Evenepeol is a central rider, other pieces have to fit around this.

f Evenepoel goes elsewhere Israel-PremierTech has the charismatic billionaire owner Sylvan Adams who in turn is keen to gently unload Chris Froome – to cite Radio Cycling again, their interview with Adams set this out quite carefully, it was more subtle than some headlines suggested – but the roster in support doesn’t look ready but this can be tweaked; Bora-hansgrohe looks stronger on paper but Jai Hindley, Alex Vlasov and perhaps Cian Uijtdebroeks might not be delighted to see Evenepoel arrive as one or two might be expected to work for him, which in turn might involve more money to secure loyalty.

Plus there’s the timing aspect. Arguably Evenepoel’s peak value in the near term is now rather than later. Another Vuelta win won’t add much but losing to Vingegaard or Roglič will worry teams in the market for him (assuming they haven’t shaken hands already). Looking ahead if he goes to the Tour next summer with Sodual-Quickstep and gets unpicked by Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar, especially if their teams show up his well we might expect this as the base scenario today. Evenepoel’s entourage could say “we told you so” but seeing it happen won’t make him any more valuable, now’s the time to move if he’s worried about this.

Is Remco Evenepoel going to move teams? There’s so much noise and if he’s not contributing to it in public, he’s not silenced the matter either with a declaration of loyalty. He could if he wanted but hasn’t which only adds to the speculation.

The problem is this situation is that it’s got more angles than it first looks, this isn’t a bolt-on deal. Just trying to get a salary increase is one thing but doing it semi-publicly suggests there’s more to it. Telling the boss to hire more support is understandable as we can see the squad needs strengthening but again when Evenepoel’s father is saying this it’s less a statement of the obvious and more one of frustration bordering on a dispute albeit in a passive-aggressive manner. Perhaps a more pro agent could do all of this but behind the scenes? For now it all points to a wider dispute that’s bubbling away. He may find the Vuelta long if he’s asked about this every day… but he chose to sign the long contract, all this is on him and the people who advised him to sign in 2021.

98 thoughts on “Moving Pieces”

      • A really enjoyable afternoon’s viewing; both Evenopoel and Tarling surprised. Ineos may be well advised to hang on to him. The commentary was excellent, too, only speaking when there was something to say, and letting the picture speak for itself the rest of the time. (In contrast to the incessant burbling of the English language commentators on Eurosport).

  1. Like Adams with Froome, it was Evenepoel’s choice to sign that contract, and he can’t complain about it now.

    Personally, I’m far from convinced that he’ll be a prolific TdF winner – which is what these teams would hope they were paying for – as I don’t see him beating both Vingegaard and Pogacar, and they’re not both going to crash out/be sick/do the Giro all that often. He’s an extremely good rider, but Evenepoel has not shown their climbing abilities as of yet. I think, as Inner Ring suggests, that he might never be worth as much as he is now.

    All sides seem to be thoroughly obnoxious:

    You can’t demean people as Lefevere consistently has and not be judged harshly for it. He has attacked people’s psychologies in public – people he himself says are ‘psychologically weak’. And he has no reason to do this, particularly when they are no longer in his team. And to top it all, Lefevere seems to have almost ruined his team for this.

    We’ve seen Evenepoel pushing a rider out of his way. At the Giro, there was the waving his arms around and shouting, post-crash – particularly ridiculous when he was at fault for the crash near the end of a stage where he was meandering one way while looking the other in a fast-moving peloton. Far worse was the waiting for teammates and soigneurs to actually lift him off the floor after another crash, where he was patently not badly hurt. He spent minutes on his backside. Then, got up and was fine. This footballer-esque behaviour is the thin end of the wedge: once one rider starts doing this, and people accept it, others will follow (there had to be the first footballer who rolled around screaming after being ‘fouled’, and people didn’t castigate them for it). If Evenepoel does that again, the peloton should attack him: that sort of behaviour needs to be nipped in the bud.

    In short, it’s fun to watch the soap opera, but if I was a rider, I’d avoid Lefevere, and if I was a team, I’d avoid Evenepoel.

    • Hear hear. Your soccer angle is so true!
      My favourite Evenpoel moment was when he got outsprinted by Colbrelli at EU Champs. Go watch it, it’s hilarious

    • But aren’t Ineos a bunch of domestiques in search of a GT leader, and more to the point a Tour leader (even if RE isn’t likely to topple JV and TP because he can’t rival them in the high mountains)? Another Vuelta win might not do much for RE’s palmares (a Giro victory would do more), it would do a lot for Ineos as GTs are their raison d’etre and Geraint Thomas isn’t getting any younger.

      • Ineos need a GC leaderand if Vingegaard and Pogačar aren’t available for hire, then Evenepoel is as good an option as their is – if maybe not a Tour de France champion he’ll be competitive and will win lots of other big races. He seems to believe he can challenge for a Tour and I wouldn’t be too surprised if he did it.

      • True, but when Lefevre criticises a rider, everyone in cycling reads it – imagine how Sam Bennett feels knowing that everyone in his community is reading about his supposed weaknesses. (And look at his form now.)
        When I criticise a rider, nobody cares.
        When you’re in a position of influence, it’s incumbent on you to choose your words carefully – when you’re a random person on the internet, it doesn’t matter.

    • J Evans I assume?

      I think the criticisms of his character are a bit harsh, as he’s matured out of sight in the last 18 months and the instances of hot-headedness you refer to are now very rare.

      Like you I am highly sceptical he has the qualities to be a serious GC threat to Jonas and Tadej. His ability to withstand multiple hard days in the mountains, or even just multiple hard, messy days of racing, is far from proven in my view.

      • Unintentional anonymity – and not exactly hiding my writing style!
        Well, the Giro was only in May. Before that, I was giving him the benefit of the doubt too.

    • I like Evenepoel. Primarily because he looks good on a bike, even if I’m not always sure what that means. He also wins one day races, which is also cool. And someone sticking it to Lefevre shouldn’t be frowned on either. He does seem to be a bit of a diva but there are 200 blokes in most pro bike races, they aren’t all going to be choir boys. Football histrionics will never catch on in cycling because you can lie on the ground and act like a prat in football and the game will stop and wait for you, you will probably also be rewarded with a free kick or penalty and may well go on and win the game. In a bike race nobody (except your own teammates) will wait for you and you won’t win anything.

    • There is another similatity to recent soccer developement in play here – a star who is bigger than the team and can write the rules accordingly. But i presume it actualy happened in cycling before, with Coppis, Merckxes, Hinaults and Armstrongs, moreso than in soccer environment?

    • As I was reading Inrng’s post I was thinking of the analogy of how transfer talk and agent disruption kills footballers and the teams they play for. If you want to make the most of your career make it all about what you do in the sporting arena. Distractions like contract talks and salaries just demotivate riders/players and before you know it you’re the next Jermaine Pennant or Eden Hazard… I would juxtapose that with Harry Kane who has seemingly played on despite not being able to realise his ambitions at his old club. Evanepoel would be well to mark this and not turn his current position into a three ring circus.

    • For what we have seen so far, it is hard to see remco winning a tdf both to pog and vin. But who knows? He might have his opportunity or still grow. He has won already a lot of different and important races, the TdF is probably one of the last big challenge for him he has not reached (not even ridden).
      Regarding football attitudes (gestures, interviews,…) I think they have done a big deal at QS in framing Remco: all this has decreased with respect to some years ago. Generally speaking, I think they are not doing bad with the boy and his grow path.

      • Reading through all of these comments, I keep coming back to one thought; “Is the Tour de France that important?” Remco is already a world champion in two different disciplines, he’s already won a grand tour, and he’s one of a very few riders who could legitimately win all five Monuments. If he has anything like the career it looks like he’ll have, he’ll still be regarded as one of the great bike racers of his generation, even if he never wins the Tour. Personally I think there’s way too much weight given to the Tour. It may be the “biggest” race on the calendar, but very frequently it’s far from the best. Give me a banger like this year’s Flanders or the muddy 2021 Roubaix over what the Tour usually delivers any day.

        • I agree with you – and would be far more impressed by someone winning all five monuments (and I think he could) – but sponsors care so much more about one race than all the others.

          • Quite, it depends on the team and their sponsors but typically the Tour can represent 80% of a team’s media exposure all year.

            You can also see this other ways, Geraint Thomas added a zero onto his salary when he became a GC contender compared to a classics rider, this pull appeals to many other riders too.

        • I also agree with what is said. Winning all 5 monuments is an amazing performance. Or winning GT and cobbled monuments (as Pog did). Far more than just winning the Tour and some other stage races.

          The points with Remco are (i) he hates cobbles (he claimed he’ll never ride cobbled classics – but I think he is in the process or reconsidering at least the Ronde (ii) no belgian has won the tour since 1976 and only 2 since ww2, one being Merckx. I let you imagine the spirits in Flanders…

          • He really said that about hating the cobbles? Is it the pain/discomfort or fear of injury? Maybe he’s rethinking since he modestly said the other day he wants to win “everything”?

          • Apparently he said that in a conversation with Johan Museeuw. Museeuw explained in a flemish talk show that they were both in Livigno and that he was wearing a T shirt with all the monuments. He told the boy: « you can win all these 5 ». To what Remco answered: « No, you’re wrong. The Ronde and Roubaix, I will never win them. Because I will never ride them. »
            Remco also explained once that he got frustrated with cobbles since a bad experience in Roubaix junior (punctures,…).

            Roger de Vlaeminck has not entered into this debate 😐 (yet).

        • With his current performance on anything remotely rough, he has zero chance with PR and would struggle with even Flanders.

          That said, he has improved massively over the years and successfully sorted out his descending. Who knows, maybe one day he will surprise people on cobbles.

      • “He has won already a lot of different and important races,”
        “TdF is probably one of the last big challenge”
        He won 2 LBL, 3 Klasikoa and 1 Vuelta. And one Worlds. Fine, but that’s not a lot of different races in my view. It’s a Vuelta, even a Horner could win that one.

        • I understand what you mean: that those races require a bit the same skills. You can also add to this the ITT world title and the Belgian Championships on perfectly flat route (the belgian title is one of the most difficult national title to win).
          I agree all these are not really outside his confort zone, but from another side there have not been many riders in the last 30 years with such a large confort zone.

          On the Vuelta, I find your comment a bit harsh. Of course it has not the mountains of the Giro or the tension of the Tour, but it remains a 3 weeks GT with high mountains, ITT,… Horner won it with 40, but also Froome, Kontador, Nibali, Roglic,…. And it returned in some cases very good fights. You cannot say the Giro is a 2nd category race simply because Hesjedal won it once, same comment can be done with the Tour and Sastre too.

          • To be clear. I love the Vuelta and I personally prefer it over the Tour. But in the broader public, it’s the lesser of the 3 Grand Tours, most of theese public care just for only one race.
            And I see that Vuelta has shifted the last few years from “just the race for those who failed during the season” to a way higher ranked field of contenders.

    • Agreed, I don’t think Remco is the solution to Ineos’ problems. He is a really solid rider, but will he gel with the team environment at Ineos?

      It is tough to say how he will do at the Tour. He has some great results, but he is rarely battling an in-form Pogacar, Vingegaard, Van Aert, MVdP, etc. I know, it isn’t his fault, but that’s just my take.

  2. Why not Bahrain?

    It has the power of pulling money out of a sovereign wealth fund easily. It’s competing with neighbor UAE for cycling supremacy.

    If Jumbo really is selling sponsorship/ ownership to a Saudi backer then add that motivation.

    Remco grew up in a soccer academy he’s seen how this works. Make enough noise that some desperate suitor shows up.

  3. Why not Bahrain?

    It has the power of pulling money out of a sovereign wealth fund easily. It’s competing with neighbor UAE for cycling supremacy.

    If Jumbo really is selling sponsorship/ ownership to a Saudi backer then add that motivation.

    Remco grew up in a soccer academy he’s seen how this works. Make enough noise that some desperate suitor shows up.

    • Bahrain don’t compete with UAE and especially with the Saudi villains. It’s a tiny Saudi puppet state with a sunni rulling family opressing the shia majority /a playground for MBS’s plastic soldiers killing protesters left, right and center/, decorated by a huge US military base.

      They probably don’t need that much soft power / sportswashing and they seemingly don’t have the ambitions of leading teams?

  4. The wind seems to have left Soudal-QS’s sails. The failed – or didn’t try – to retain sprinters Jakobsen and Vernon, and didn’t understand that criticism wasn’t the way to motivate Alaphilippe. 2024 looks difficult for Lefevère’s team and it’s partly their fault. As for Evenepoel, he’s strong but I just can’t warm to him. Frankly I’d prefer Ineos without.

    • The team does have a tradition of seeing sprinters onto other teams, so Jakobsen and Vernon moving and presumably onto much bigger contracts, is normal. They’ve got Merlier, and neo-pro Lamperti although the jury’s out here on Merlier, very quick normally but he struggles in the high mountains, completing a grand tour is hard and trying costs him speed.

    • They did not try to keep Jakobsen (and some of the riders from his sprint train) to free up budget for Remco’s climb train. And from what I’ve heard Lefevere told him that at the start of the season already, so that he had plenty of time to contact other teams.

  5. Ineos clearing the decks (Tao, Ben T and pos CR) is a good a sign as any a big name is coming in. Now, the other factor is the route design and it’s not hard to see ASO including more gravel, flat TTs and less Loze type stages – what’s good for Pog is probably good for Remco

      • Did he ride that ? Can’t see it on PCS, but you may mean the Giro where he imploded a few years ago. Certainly a question mark but he was overcoming injury and the memory of a big off. He seems to have improved (with one or two errors!) and physiologically would seem good for that type of riding. The point was more that JV has some weakness that could be exploited by one or the other (perhaps!)

        • Yes, it was the famous sterrato or “Strade Bianche” stage in 2021. Evenepoel looked very uncomfortable on the gravel sections and lost lots of positions in every downhill curve.

          (Almeida wasn´t pleased that he had to drop down and try to save the day at least somewhat for Evcenepoel…)

        • Usually good TTers are good at gravel, cobbles and the other rough stuffs. This is because they can maintain high absolute power. Remco is an extremely good TTer no doubt, but he achieved this by being very aero not necessarily by being a power tractor in traditional sense (some Belgium papers claimed that his face is more aero than others. Not sure how that works).

          That said, good at riding rough stuff is also about having the confidence to let your bike do its own things at times. It’s a mentality. You only get that by riding them a lot when you start cycling. Not sure the boat has sailed for Remco, but he certainly needs to ride a lot gravel to build confidence.

  6. I,m sure Evenepoel could command a higher salary than he currently is getting even if it’s fairly good now. But i,m not sure he can complain much unless the team has not met some conditions. He signed for 5 years at a time when he was still coming back from a bad crash and injury and importantly before he had a real big time results he has subsequently had.
    So he might have undercut himself but equally the team took a big risk on what was at the time an uncertain future performance. It was a contract that could have gone both ways.
    I doubt anybody had a gun at his head when he signed. And i think his dad was the manager presumably advising him and making noise now.

  7. Patrick Lefevere had a winning strategy with the “wolf pack” perfect for the Classics and GT sprints, winning GC on a 3 week race is a (obviously) rather a different skill set which he and his team have shown little aptitude for or interest in. He has tried to change but it looks like a failure, no sign of really building the necessary infrastructure and riders around Remco Evenepoel. I agree about the climbing issue but dont rule out next year’s TdF route having the most TT kms for years, a Remco Evenepoel win would be worth a lot to ASO (not that I am cynical!). Maybe a number of “LBL” type stages? Also factor in the disruption at JV with the impending departure of the main sponsor.

    Not completely convinced about Ineos, they have not looked like the same outfit since the untimely death of Nicolas Portal and Dave Brailsford’s move “upstairs”. I wonder if G’s narrow loss in the Giro was a final hurrah?

    I too am somewhat uncomfortable with the manoeuvring around Remco Evenepoel but then I have always been pretty dubious about the hype machine around him and this sort of “football” transfer saga goes with the territory. Sometimes his media replies are just too slick (he clearly hasnt been on the “taking everyday as it comes ” course) it feels rather planned out.

    • A couple of thoughts, the “wolfpack” aspect of the team’s not like it was. The team used to top the victory rankings among teams every year and by a large margin, in part because they won a lot, in part because a lot of them won. Now the team’s shifted to having a few leaders, some of which have big contracts, it’s more the norm and the wolfpack period was an interlude. I can’t blame Lefevere for wanting to win the Tour as he’s won almost everything else but Evenepoel alone might not be sufficient, you need a team built around it.

      Also for ASO, I doubt there’s much value in an Evenepoel win in itself, it’s hardly a new market to crack. The thing they really want though is a contest so having Evenepoel trying to take on Vingegaard, Pogačar and the others is as appealing to them as it is to the rest of us.

  8. I know this is getting into crazy talk but it’s sort of fun to play “what if” with the rumors of a QS and Ineos merger. Quineos? Seems incredibly unlikely but both squads do have a number of contracts set to expire.

    • That’s not the first time I’ve heard that one. And the big S going along with Remco….the owner of Pinarello is part of the owners of Q36.5…..

  9. This story seems to me to be one where no one comes out with any grace or dignity. A financial fight for the Golden Goose – Remco understandably wants to cash in on his talent before it’s too late, but I hope he can concentrate on his talent and not all the hoopla that’s going on around him.

  10. Isn’t pidcock ineos’golden boy? Is the turnover of riders at ineos not odd? Personally I wouldn’t go anywhere near ineos as they seem to damage a lot of talent.

    • My worry is that if Remco goes to Ineos, they’ll try to make him the next “stick insect like Froome copy” and in the process ruin his natural talent.
      It’s ironic that at QS over the years riders have down well then failed when they’ve moved, and at Ineos they’ve brought good riders who then failed to perform.

      • Surely if he independently chooses to go to Ineos it’ll be because he wants to be the next “stick insect like Froome copy”. As Vingegaard vs Pogacar is demonstrating, winning the spectrum of events in any given year isn’t really doable. Instead the problem, it seems to me, is that the structures and backroom personnel that allowed Froome to win TdFs are no longer in place at Ineos. Sure, riders seem to be comfortable and admirably well looked-after there (people don’t retire shortly after joining a la Dumoulin and Dennis) but cycling careers are short: is comfort and happiness really a priority for men in their twenties? His career won’t go backwards moving there but I’m not convinced it’ll progress much either.

        • Yeah, some of that “backroom personnel” has been having his share of issues with various laws. Astonishing that with those conclusions in several courts of sort, sporting institutions never acted seriously against the rest of team’s managing structure, or the team as such. Apparently, “strict liability” is only for riders who fail to analyse their supplement, not for managers with controlling personalities who nevertheless fail to check what their team doctors are doing and what other “backroom personnel” is transporting through half Europe.

  11. Let Remco go and bring back the old spring classic rider wolfpack we all enjoyed.
    Building the whole team around just one single GT contender sucked the core heart out of this team.

  12. When Remco buys his way out of QS there will be nothing left. The team will be terrible next year. Too late in the transfer market to add anything good. Lotto DSTNY will finally be able to outperform its Belgian rivals.

  13. I cannot see PF selling Remco unless his Czech owner wants to cash out or PF gives up on TdF and returns to classics.

    Problem for Ineos is they don’t have any of the 5or 6 Galacticos. We all love Tom Pidcock but he ain’t winning a GT for a few years at best.

    Ineos is definitely clearing the decks so perhaps I’m wrong – Roglic for TdF 24 would be a cheaper and better bet.

    Also – A.Yates at TdF this year has challenged the ‘Ineos gets the best out of the riders’ theory

    • Ineos still have a lot of talent. If Bernal doesn’t improve then Arensman will be given his chance, probably with Thomas and De Plus as his domestiques, that could be a strong team. I don’t think we’ve really seen what Plapp can do as he’s also filled the role of domestique this year. I also rate Hayter’s chances of copying Wiggins and Thomas but probably not until after the Olympics.

  14. SQS failing to capture Sivakov is a big tell to me. How many quality mountain domestiques are still available? I also see that they have yet to renew James Knox’s contract who would be very important for Evenepoel in GTs.

  15. Johann Bruyneel seconds Mr Ring’s point about Remco’s father (and agent) who seems to be the one keeping the pot stirring with regards to Remco’s future. A more professional attitude would be to keep quiet. Bruyneel said,
    “”Perhaps the time has come for Remco to say goodbye to his father as an agent. You only need one statement from Remco. He must say that he is having a good time with his team and that he has an agreement until 2026. That he serves out this contract and does not go to another team. The fact that Remco has not said this out loud so far indicates to me that there is a desire for some unrest. Perhaps that happens under the influence of his father.”

  16. To continue the footballing analogy maybe remco should quote cantana “when the seagulls follow the trawler…” seems to be a lot of seagulls about

  17. I’m left to conclude that the ‘yacht test’ is the pivot point for all our sport’s backing, and a few high-rollers get to settle the future of teams, riders and events on a couple of afternoons when the ultimate owners compare their team’s achievements like kids do with collector cards. As the game intensifies so the riders’ wages go up.
    Lefevre doesn’t come close to having this level of influence but as long as he thinks he does he’s happy. The press are happy to collude for the sake of eyeballs.
    Evenepoel is having his career back-to-front: all the other riders must prove they can win things and they have these as achievements. We all think we already know Evenepoel can win everything, so only his failures stand out.

    Any contract for athletes will have massive scope to give win bonuses way above the paper value. Isn’t all this noise just Evenepoel’s agent doing their job, upping Evenepoel’s rewards, whilst Lefevre digs in on the written basics? – until the yacht test provides another outcome.

    • A budget cap for teams would help with a lot of these issues, and make the sport more balanced.
      It wouldn’t be perfect – teams would always be trying to find ways around it – but it would be an improvement on the current situation.
      Dominant, wealthy teams is not good for the sport – plus if they are less able to use their money to dominate, you might lose some of the morally bankrupt owners/sponsors that are increasingly prevalent in the sport.
      In life, if you run anything based on how much profit you can make, that is all you will achieve: more money, not a better sport (or whatever else you care to insert here).

      • Fine, let the teams agree and somehow do it without infinging competition law, but it couldn’t and shouldn’t place an upper limit on riders’ wages.
        And in the end you’ll be taking money out of the sport, so who’d want that?

        • Other sports do it.
          I’m fine with a salary cap – nobody needs more than two million euros a year (to pick a random number).
          And I’m fine taking money out of the sport, if that’s what happens. Money doesn’t make sport better, and has no intrinsic value.

          • It’s as if the value of money matters there, J. The day a sport gets salary caps is the day it fell into private hands, for whom a mere few millions is a piffling amount. Try telling them they don’t need more.
            Cycling as a sport has all its money relatively in the open and it’s relatively current. Owners can’t load up with debt secured against the future earnings of that team. There is no battle for the sale of rights, or at least not quite yet so we get to see lots of the races for small amounts and it’s the athletes who get relatively fair pay.
            Salary caps go with the baggage of sports that are owned outright where the money is very tightly controlled for it to be securitised and saleable. No thanks.
            Mind you, I suspect such things are very much on the taff rail as that yacht party heads back into port. If only there weren’t those pesky French teams with their salaried employees where the team is merely an adjunct to the marketing spend…

          • Why a salary cap? Surely a budget cap is what has been discussed previously? i.e. the teams can pay their riders whatever they like out of their capped total budget. This ensures that those owners with deep pockets can’t just buy every promising rider who comes on the market, to the detriment of teams with fewer resources.

  18. PL is squirming in the bed he has made for himself over many years. He’s the got the style of the maniacal American Football coach, trying to motivate his players through intimidation and meanness. But alas, he has found his match in the strong willed, and arrogant young man who much like other young stars, hasn’t grown up yet. Maturity matters, a lot. As an aside Pog and Vino are incredibly mature and about the same age. And guess what, they are both fan favorites and winners, and oh so refreshing. It is undeniable that Remco has massive talent and can absolutely win the Tour. But it takes so much more than talent. First and foremost it takes teamwork which requires team players and a Coach that inspires this. And it takes a star rider to be a leader and inspire his mates to go to war for him. PL and Remco are failing in the teamwork department. Ahhh the Belgian cycling pressure cooker, those guys really know how to take the fun out of it.

  19. The team of QS and PL took a risk by signing Remco for 5 years in early 2021 when the long term form and GT/One day races winning future of Remco was an unknown quantity. Remco definitely has surpassed the win rate expectations as per the signed contract value as the open murmurs about it show, but how can PL and QS be to be blamed for it. They essentially gave him the vote of confidence, took risk and followed up with long term commitment both in terms of team support and guaranteed status as No 1 GT rider in grand tours (they didn’t sign anyone who could be perceived as a threat to Remco) at a time when he was at his lowest. They also won Vuelta as a team and was leading Giro when he left and presumably may have won it too. I find it harsh on the team QS and their supporters when the story is spun as “Remco deserves better” kind of talk, as if he was short changed into signing a 5 year deal.

  20. unrelated but in today’s news – so confused by Freeman case.

    I simply do not understand what’s going on.
    Half the world scream Sky doped.
    Half the world says the didn’t.
    Maybe there’s a slither in between who genuinely do not know what to think.

    I’m going to find and reread the INRNG article on it.

    My laymans instinct is if they did dope it was nothing like the previous industrial scale doping era and more pushing into grey areas like Wiggins admitted injections which seem dubious but are in a rules grey area so I’m fine to give benefit of doubt.

    Overall though I do not fully understand what Freeman has been struck off for.

    • There are two things, first a medical tribunal which is an employment related matter. Second this case has brought evidence which has led to an anti-doping case.

      The first, well that’s for people who know UK medical employment law and rules, and few are reading this blog for such angles.

      The second part is something explored here before, see from 2021 which stands up alright in the light of today’s news.

    • Destroying hard drives is incredibly wasteful, Freeman deserved to be punished for that alone. Use full-disk encryption and/or disk wiping software instead.

    • He’s been banned by UKAD for buying testosterone, then claiming it was by mistake and that he sent it back, then saying that it was for Sutton. They also bought loads of the corticosteroid, triamcinolone, and said it was for non-riding staff. And that’s just two instances of the goings on. You either believe he was acting alone, entirely without the knowledge of British Cycling and Sky, or you don’t.

    • Having the doctor of the team be involved in doping is pretty much the definition of “industrial” doping – least, if we take that to mean team organised (as part of its industry, that is) doping.

      The guy was making purchases on the team account from the team’s pharmacy, for fairly large quantities of substances with performance benefits (beyond personal use, and I think that was established too – his own defence was that this was for “staff”!), no doubt remaining paid for by the team.

      BTW, on Freedman and the “the T-gel was for staff!” defence: I note that David Brailsford as a mid-50-something has set times up alpine climbs pretty much as fast pro riders *IN THE TOUR* – indeed, he was faster than some! Bit suspicious…. And if the boss is doing it…

      • At a minimum we have an organisation where the management and training staff apparently had some pretty industrial doping programme going for themselves, along with rather “incredible” climbing times for 50+ management staff.

        But these doping management of course were “new generation” when it came to preparing their riders! Of course!

      • Oh, and these “new generation” riders often had terrible ailments that required the use of a number of substances on the banned list, purely for medical reasons with the appropriate TUE – of course! (Did some of those end up being back-dated TUEs? I can’t remember, e.g. the Wiggins steroids?).

        And, of course, when you have a legitimate medical condition to treat, right in the middle of a stage race, with a fairly common medicine, one _of course_ does *NOT* just send the doctor to the nearest pharmacy to procure said common medicine – no! You get the coaching staff of the women’s team to drop what they’re doing, drive to Manchester to pick up a brown paper bag of , then drive to the south of England, catch a ferry and drive across France, to deliver said *perfectly legitimate* medicine to the team doctor.

        That makes perfect sense!

    • If you feel okay about it then that is all that matters-who cares about the truth. If you have not yet been convinced by the ample evidence against Team Sky then that is because you do not wish to be.

  21. They painted the floor white for marginal gains but still ended up losing all the evidence. How strange.
    Had to revert to an old-fashioned fall guy.
    And where’s the performance gone?

    It probably is just as bad as it smells.

  22. While it’s not a deftly executed maneuver by his Dad/Agent I get the logic: The best time to line up Remco’s (next) big pay day is before he rides the tour.

    The controlled racing and relatively less tricky parcours and more regular climbs (compared to the giro) would seem to suit him. But I dont think anybody knows how Remco will handle the longer climbs and higher stress racing. So he keeps circling waiting for the right course or right competition.

    If they were confident, he wouldve been there this year. If he goes next year without a new contract….and it doesnt go well…that next BIG payday may not come. Repeat Liege/Tirreno winner is nice, but how €€€€ nice? The gap between good bike racer salary and global superstar is a big one.

  23. I see Remco as an incredibly aerodynamic rider, more so than perhaps we’ve ever seen. Some of it by nature, like his short arms and compact body. Other aspects he adapts, like the bottle/radio on his stomach in the TT. All that put together with amazing absolute power makes a rider that goes superhumanly fast on the flats – He should not be able to go so fast on the flats for his weight, but here he is. He has just beaten them all in a flat-ish TT.

    We have seen him go fast up single climbs, as fast as anyone in the second tier of climbers behind Vingegaard and Pogacar. But we have not seen him really sustain it. The Vuelta, with all its single finishing climbs is not the same as the Tour with stages that are 5000 vertical meters in a day that are ridden hard. I for one have the feeling that Roglic would have found a way to beat him in the 22´Vuelta had he not crashed out. What is left is that he beat Enric Mas by 2 minutes, of which he took 2:30 minutes in TT and TTTs. And then Ayuso was beaten by 5min in that Vuelta, a rider prone to having occasional bad days still. It’s a good win on the palmarés but it doesn’t guarantee even a top10 in the Tour.

    I know he is superhumanly good, but I think he will be made to look human in the high mountains, if not by a 90% post-tour Vingegaard or a waning Roglic in this year´s Vuelta then surely in the Tour next year.

    I look forward to be proved wrong by him, though. He does seem to surprise still. In this year’s Giro there really was a promise of a rider who could take time in the TT’s in a scary way, but sadly it was not fulfilled. And then Vingegaard did the TT of a lifetime in the tour, so it seems less relevant what he can do in the TT now.

  24. Thoroughly recommend the recent interview with Remco on Lanterne Rouge podcast.

    He comes across as honest, humble and distinctly well-adjusted for such a young guy with all of Belgium on his shoulders.

    • That is a good interview. Thanks for the heads up. I couldn’t handle the entire thing, but what I listened to was interesting, especially his discussion of the Worlds road race and ITT. He gives a completely different impression than his post-race interviews.

      • I meant to add: his use of “normally” is interesting. One of the few English words he uses awkwardly, which he does a couple of times, once when talking about his junior days and then a key one in his statements about his future with Quickstep…

Comments are closed.