The boss of Bora wants Remco Evenepoel on his team and may go so far as to buy the young Belgian's current squad in order to acquire the 21-year-old's services.
That's according to Patrick Lefevere, who says Bora-Hansgrohe's manager Ralph Denk has told him that the boss of Bora, Willi Bruckbauer, is very keen to have Evenepoel race in his set-up.
"The self-proclaimed king of the hunt is Ralph Denk of Bora-Hansgrohe," Patrick Lefevere wrote in his Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab) column of the suitors lining up in the hope of tempting Evenepoel away from the Belgian team.
"He explained that Willi Bruckbauer, the boss of Bora, absolutely wants to bring in Remco. The shortest route is apparently to buy the entire team. It was serious because he also wanted to know what role I still saw myself playing in that set-up."
The contracts of 26 Deceuninck - Quick-Step riders are up at the end of season, due to the team's current sponsorship deal expiring this year, and only Yves Lampaert, Mauri Vansevenant, Julian Alaphilippe and Evenepoel have options to extend until 2024.
Should Lefevere not strike a new deal with his current financial backers, the 66-year-old currently setting a deadline of March 31 to get a new agreement signed, Bruckbauer could be the man to step into the void, but the decision will ultimately be that of Zdeněk Bakala, the Czech billionaire who owns 70 per cent of the team.
"It is my ambition to continue with the team myself and I talk about this with my sponsors. The deadline I still have in mind today to get that done is March 31. I think I said: if I fail, then you will be the first to hear," Lefevere said, speaking publicly to Bruckbauer.
Evenepoel has recently returned to riding outside, having spent the winter recovering from his severe crash at Il Lombardia last year.
The Belgian is hoping to make his comeback at the Giro d'Italia, which would be his debut Grand Tour, but if he makes the start line he'll be riding without any ambition or expectation.
“I still have a long way to go,” Evenepoel said in February. "I normally whistle up a short slope in the neighborhood. Now I’m gasping for breath. I noticed that yesterday when I trained with my team-mates on the Muur van Geraardsbergen. But that’s normal if you’ve been inactive for four months. I now have to work on my base again, re-acclimatise to the long distances."
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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