After a year out of the professional racing circuit, Belgian domestique Julien Vermote is apparently set to be thrown a lifeline at the last possible moment by Visma-Lease a Bike in 2024, according to multiple media reports.
Visma-Lease a Bike began a last-minute hunt for a final rider for their 2024 roster following the unexpected announcement in December by team worker Lennard Hofstede that he would be quitting the sport, and Vermote is said to be close to a deal with the Dutch squad.
After his contract was not renewed by Alpecin-Deceuninck at the end of 2022, Vermote, 34, continued racing as a contractless elite rider. He formed his own one-rider team Secteur, with the goal of returning to the pro ranks this season. His best result was 19th in the Belgian National Championships, although he took multiple placings on the kermesse circuit as well.
That hope had seemingly evaporated, but according to Het Laatste Nieuws, Vermote is close to signing with Visma-Lease a Bike and set to travel to Spain on Monday for a training camp with the team. It’s also reported that his one-year contract will be signed shortly.
A pro since 2011 with teams like Soudal-QuickStep and Dimension Data, Vermote already found himself struggling for a team back in the winter of 2021 when his one-year contract with Cofidis was not renewed.
After three months out of a job, Vermote was then signed by Alpecin-Deceuninck, only to fall seriously ill with toxoplasmosis. Despite that illness making 2021 all but a write-off, Alpecin renewed his contract for 2022.
Vermote raced for leader Mathieu van der Poel in multiple cobbled Classics, including the 2022 Tour of Flanders, which the Dutchman won, and he also worked for teammate Tim Merlier en route to the Belgian’s home triumph at Classic Brugge-De Panne.
However, for 2023, there was no second contract renewal for Vermote at Alpecin, and after a year’s seemingly fruitless search, this January, he once again found himself facing an untimely end to his pro career.
Visma-Lease a Bike’s sudden need for a replacement for Hofstede, though, has reportedly enabled Vermote to be saved by the bell for a second time in his pro career.
A winner of two stages in the Tour of Britain, Vermote’s main duty in his teams to date has been as an all-rounder domestique in everything from Grand Tours to Monuments.
One stellar moment for Vermote came in the Tour de France 2017 with QuickStep when he was frequently visible controlling the front of the peloton…