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It’s the story making headlines around the cycling world.
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl boss Patrick Lefevere quickly poured cold water on the story, saying there was “0.0 percent” chance that the newly crowned world champion would break his long-term deal with the Belgian WorldTour team.
Evenepoel’s father Patrick, who acts as his son’s agent, admitted that there’s been ongoing contact with the top brass at Ineos and other teams, including Bora-Hansgrohe, but also moved to downplay the story.
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Lefevere said Evenepoel called him directly this week to quell any fear that it might be true.
Yet there are issues concerning bonus payouts, and with millions of dollars in play, even Lefevere said never say never.
So should Remco Evenepoel leave Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl to join Ineos Grenadiers?
There’s a lot to unpack. Our VeloNews editors dive in:
YES — Daniel Benson, editor in chief, VeloNews
The speculation surrounding Evenepoel’s possible transfer from Quick-Step to Ineos Grenadiers became a major story during the week and promoted the rider and his team boss Patrick Lefevere to post photos of themselves eating dinner on Thursday night in order to try and put an end to the story.
That photo opportunity was the clearest indication yet that while a transfer to Ineos is a long, long way off, even the mere idea of the move had Quick-Step scrambling.
The reality is that Evenepoel is in an incredibly strong position right now, and after winning both the Vuelta and the worlds he has a stacked deck of options when it comes to demands and contract positions.
And unlike in 2021 when Quick-Step could easily swat away interest from Bora-hansgrohe they now have the richest man in Great Britain, Jim Ratcliffe knocking on the door.We are not at the point where Evenepoel has a choice to make but there’s no doubt that the Belgian would receive greater grand tour support at Ineos than he would at Quick-Step.
Think Wayne Rooney swapping Everton for Manchester United, or Matthew Stafford leaving the Detroit Lions for the LA Rams.
Some teams are conditioned to winning grand tours, and Ineos, despite their lull in recent years, is still a major force when it comes to three week racing. It’s in their DNA, in just the same way that Quick-Step is conditioned to winning classics.
One could reasonably argue that despite a lull, Ineos is still one of the top three grand tour teams in the WorldTour, despite the recent losses of Adam Yates and Richard Carapaz. They have a former winner in Gerant Thomas, a world-class climber in Dani Martinez and a number of experienced domestiques who know how to get the job done at the Tour.
Even Egan Bernal could be tasked with supporting Evenepoel if the Colombian finds himself still on the comeback trail in 2023. The likes of Tao Geoghegan Hart, Michal Kwiatkowski, Filippo Ganna, Jonathan Castroviejo, Thymen Arensman, Carlos Rodriguez and Pavel Sivakov form an incredible unit but what they lack is a focal point.
A ready made leader who can compete for the maillot jaune. While Quick-Step did raise its game at the Vuelta, and rode admirably to guide Evenepoel to the overall win, they are not in the same bracket as the major grand tour teams. And they might never be, given the squad’s dependence on sprinters and the classics.
It’s very hard to be excellent in every area unless you have Wout van Aert in your ranks. It could therefore take another two to three years before Evenepoel has support he needs at Quick-Step, so the question is whether he’s willing to wait it out or if there’s an oven-baked option waiting on the table.
Of course, there’s the heart strings, the sentimentality and national identity. Quick-Step is”‘the” Belgian team, and sponsors and fans adore a homegrown winner.
Such elements cannot be ruled out, and riders have stayed for such reasons in the past, but if Evenepoel is thinking with head, if he’s looking at the best move for his grand tour success, and if the path to Ineos opens up from a legal and financial point if view, there’s really only one option: Ineos.
NO — Andrew Hood, VeloNews European editor
No, Evenepoel will not betray the “Wolfpack.”
There’s no way Patrick Lefevere, one of the cagiest and smartest players in the WorldTour, will let his latest gem slip from his fingers.
Lefevere won’t stand for it, the sponsors will step up to make sure it doesn’t happen, and Belgian fans would riot if the crazy cycling nation’s next superstar pulled up roots.
An Evenepoel move to Ineos Grenadiers would be akin to Luís Figo leaving Barcelona to play at Real Madrid. Or Wayne Gretzky leaving the Oilers. The treachery would be akin to Robert Irsay pulling up stakes on the Colts and moving them from Baltimore to Indianapolis literally at midnight.
Even money — Lefevere put the price-tag at $125 million price-tag — has its limits.
Some things run deeper than the wallet, and Evenepoel will prove loyal to his cycling brotherhood.
After winning Belgium’s first grand tour since 1978 and the first rainbow jersey in a decade, the newly crowned world champion has the cycling world in his palm. And he knows it.
At 22, Evenepoel is incredibly mature and wise for his age. He doesn’t drink, he buckles down to do his work, and he’s surrounded by a tight family structure. He’s even getting married soon.
And he has Belgium’s biggest and most important WorldTour team wrapped around his finger.
That stability and base will be essential if Evenepoel has any hopes of fulfilling his dream of winning the yellow jersey. And despite winning the Vuelta and worlds, it remains a dream.
With his breakout season, Evenepoel will be the gravitational center of the team. Even with Lefevere’s long-running DNA in the classics, Evenepoel’s raising status will see the team broaden its base.
World Champion 2022! 🇧🇪🌈🥇🔥
Dreams do come true, can’t wait to wear the Rainbow Jersey next season!! 🙏🏼
Thanks to the entire team for the amazing work today, a perfect race for us and very proud to finish it off!! 👊🏼
We are Belgium ❤️ pic.twitter.com/2mSUAp2sJT
— Remco Evenepoel (@EvenepoelRemco) September 25, 2022
Evenepoel will need more helpers for the grand tours, something that’s obvious to everyone involved, but there’s time and money.
Lefevere locked up new co-sponsor Soudal to assure the team’s future for the next five years, a move that was key to the long-term deal to keep Evenepoel in-house.
Lefevere needs to bolster the back bench to give Evenepoel some brawlers for the flats — something the likes of Yves Lampaert, Tim Declercq, and Florian Sénéchal can already do — and add some mountain goats for the climbs.
Evenepoel’s best hopes of winning the Tour de France will be if he remains at Quick-Step.
Evenepoel is the prince of his kingdom. At Quick-Step, he’s going to be the alpha dog at the “Wolfpack,” which he joined as a young pup at 18.
A move to Ineos Grenadiers would see him become a piece in the Brailsford cog.
At Ineos, Evenepoel would be under immediate pressure to live up to the team’s Tour legacy of winning seven yellow jerseys inside eight years with four different riders.
There’s a sense that Ineos Grenadiers is growing a bit desperate. Everyone knows that there are only a handful of riders truly capable of winning the yellow jersey. Egan Bernal’s uncertain recovery and Geraint Thomas’s aging legs mean that the team is left without a clear guarantee to carry team colors into its second decade.
Brailsford’s wisely built out its roster with more than a dozen promising young riders, including the likes of Tom Pidcock, Ethan Hayter, and Magnus Sheffield, but they all need more time to fully blossom.
Right now, UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma hold all the aces. And that drives Ineos Grenadiers a bit nuts.
Beyond expectations, Evenepoel suddenly jumped into that elite club of grand tour winners. There’s no guarantee he can replicate his Vuelta success at the longer, higher-paced climbs of the French Alps.
Right now, Evenepoel packs a five-year contract and the support of an entire franchise and nation at his back. He’d be crazy to leave.
Now, if things don’t pan out in a few years, then there will something to talk about. And a flood of new headlines to follow.