Soudal-QuickStep riders and management are veering between anxiety and hope this week in the Italian Classics as the team awaits news over a possible new ‘B’ squad to salvage the riders who could be left out of the potential merger with Jumbo-Visma.
If the merger goes ahead, it has been estimated that 20 riders and dozens of team staff could be left without a job. With fewer than three months before the new season begins, the struggle to find a new employer would be a brutally difficult one.
In the meantime, the winning machine that has always been Soudal-QuickStep continues to work at full speed.
Ilan Van Wilder took a stunning solo victory in Tre Valli Varesine on Tuesday – then went on to deliver an impassioned defence of his current team afterwards. Andrea Baglioli subsequently outpowered his three fellow breakaways at Gran Piemonte to claim one last triumph for his squad before moving on to Lidl-Trek. If Soudal-QuickStep is going down, then, it is with all guns blazing.
Rumours that team boss Patrick Lefevere is seeking to create a new ‘B’ team from whatever remains after the merger have both renewed expectations that a last-minute solution could be found and fears that such expectations could be ill-founded.
“You notice that everyone has questions, but I do my best to keep their minds on the race,” longstanding QuickStep sports director Davide Bramati told Het Laatste Nieuws on Thursday. “I’ve already done a few ‘crazy’ meetings: I say crazy things, I show silly photos, I try to keep the atmosphere as light as possible.
“As a sports director, the mental aspect of racing is part of my job [and] you also have to look at things from the riders’ perspective. I think they are behaving very professionally.”
Team doctor Steven Bex agreed in the same newspaper article with veteran Soudal-QuickStep rider Pieter Serry that the biggest problem at the moment was the degree of uncertainty, with their only source of information coming from the media. But the potential gamechanger of the new ‘B’ team could even see the squad go back to their racing roots, Bex said.
“There are still many great riders on board. With them we should be able to go back to our DNA from a few years ago, going for victories in one-day competitions.
“The biggest problem is uncertainty. If we had certainty, good or bad, then we could move on. After his victory in Tre Valle Varesine, Ilan perfectly expressed what everyone in this group feels. This just hurts because we want to move…