Visma-Lease A Bike kit looks a lot like the Jumbo-Visma kit. Team sponsors can change but the team keeps its visual identity, it’s a sensible idea as long as the sponsors are ok, very often they are so sensitive to their branding that they want “their” team to adopt every style and brand guideline they have.
Spot the difference: Several teams have unveiled kits and the good news so far is that there is less blue and red, it will be easier to tell them apart on TV for fans; even riders can have issues in races when they might glance over their shoulder and can’t be sure if the rider in red kit bridging across is from Bahrain or Ineos. But there’s plenty of time for other teams to resemble each other.
Kein Uijtdebroeks: Cian Uijtdebroeks is no longer with Bora-hansgrohe, it’s official. He is a Visma-LAB rider after his transfer went through this week. All is well that ends well but it wasn’t a very pro look for two teams to be arguing in public like this and for his agent to try and get the deal without UCI approval. The key issue was to have this approved both teams and the UCI by 1 January as transfers are only allowed between the end of the season until the end of the year, otherwise it’d have to wait until the transfer window in August.
Lapierre loses out: talking of Bora-hansgrohe, they might have had another deal. Bike brand Lapierre had long sponsored Groupama-FDJ but the company has been taken over by private equity and new owners KKR want – read need – to increase sales and opting for a more international team became a priority as Groupama-FDJ just looked too French. All this is told in more detail on the Matos Vélo website. So Lapierre dropped Groupama-FDJ, targetted Bora-hansgrohe… and whatever reason missed out as the German teams stay with Specialized so Lapierre is now without a men’s World Tour team.
Le budget: Staying with Groupama-FDJ, they have the 15th biggest budget in the World Tour. Every year the UCI gets to review teams and the finances as a condition of their WorldTeam licence and so the governing body knows the headline budget for every team. But this is guarded, except for when teams get a pack of info which contains their ranking in terms of budget on a scale so they can see the order between 1 and 18th and the team’s position was mentioned in L’Equipe this week. The team budget for last year was €22 million. Who is 16th, 17th and 18th? Cofidis’s accounts show about €16 million, Arkéa-Samsic have been on about €18 million according to memory from a radio interview and Intermarché’s roster probably means they’re the third team.
The drinks are on him: for the sake of a quick comparison, a decade ago Team Sky dominated the World Tour with a budget of €25 million, a sum that has doubled and Ineos today probably isn’t the biggest budget either. As La Gazzetta Dello Sport noted the other day the average team budget is now €28 million. Most of this is driven by rider wages going up, the average in the World Tour for 2024 is €449k but of course the average rider doesn’t earn this, the number is bumped up by the handful of riders on the biggest deals. Still it does touch the other end of the scale too, there is a minimum wage for the World Tour but few riders will be on it, even neo-pros typically sign for well above this floor… at least for the men.
July in the diary: Groupama-FDJ aren’t the only riders on Wilier bikes. So are Astana. If the Kazkakh team hasn’t announced its Tour team but you can guess, there will be Mark Cavendish’s lead out train in Mørkøv, Ballerini and Bol, Alexey Lutsenko plus a worker or two. Yet teams are announcing their squads for the Tour de France already, specifically UAE and Visma-LAB and that’s partly because they’re shaping plans around one rider and the task of trying to win the race overall; teams going stage hunting or aiming for the sprints don’t have to pick their eight yet even if they have a good idea of their preferred eight. Training plans have been hatched, Teams will try to send the same riders to races together, for example you could tell Intermarché-Wanty’s Tour plans from the riders it sent to the early-season Majorca races and by March and May riders will be on altitude training camps together. We might think gone are the days when teams would see who had a good Dauphiné or Suisse, or even the nationals but remember Felix Gall rode his way into the Ag2r Citroën Tour team this year but it takes this kind of performance to do it. The best plans change of course and no more so than Jumbo-Visma this year, you might remember the scramble for replacement riders in the days before the Giro.
Portfolio additions: away from the peloton and a note that ASO have picked up the Bemer Cyclassics race, the one day World Tour event in Hamburg that needs the “one day World Tour event in Hamburg” tag because it’s a good event but the late season slot and its relative novelty (it started in 1996) mean it’s still to take root. Similarly Flanders Classics have added the Amstel Gold Race to their portfolio as organisers grow. The mooted “One Cycling” project should be more of a story in 2024 and one big idea is to bundle races together so event organisers owning lots of races already gives them more sway in negotiations. But the likes of ASO and Flanders Classics are probably taking over extra events because it makes sense anyway.
Gap in the market? Tour of Britain event organiser Sweetspot is being pursued by British Cycling for funds and there has been news this week that the two senior members of staff, in both senses, Mick Bennett and Hugh Roberts are retiring. The race is on the calendar for now but with a question mark over it. Maybe a new race organiser steps in
Finally… there will be a Christmas Quiz here online in the coming days, after all it’s the season of tradition. The chart above missed the cut but see if you can guess what it shows. Less data-driven is a quote, translated from a now-retired French rider about their non-French team: “thugs who don’t use the toilet brush” but I can’t find the original so it didn’t feature… but feel free to guess the squad he was talking about.