Belgian super team Quick-Step Floors looks likely to retain Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria and rising classification star Bob Jungels for 2018, but everything else – including sponsors and futures of top riders such as Philippe Gilbert and Marcel Kittel – is up in the air.
Team boss Patrick Lefevere has been meeting with representatives from large companies to try to bring in an A-list sponsor to fund the team. The idea, he says, is to find a sponsor on the scale of Sky or Emirates, even if the latter does not pay its team anywhere near Team Sky’s £24 million budget.
Quick-Step Floors will instead continue to rely on its owner, Zdenek Bakala, for part of its operating budget, even though Lefevere had wanted to lessen the burden on the Czech businessman as it heads into a new post-Tom Boonen era.
More sponsor information could come out of a pre-Tour de France presentation scheduled for this month in Stuttgart.
Given the location, near Lidl’s headquarters in Neckarsulm, some say that the German supermarket chain could put in more money or become title sponsor. A chunk of the 2018 budget will continue to come from long-time sponsor Quick-Step Floors.
Following the Giro d’Italia, Quick-Step’s current roster of 28 riders received confirmation that the team will continue into 2018, and agents representing leading riders believe its future is secured for four years, through 2021.
The budget should stay the same, at around €18 million (£15.6m).
Because the team is so successful – the best so far in 2017 with 30 victories – it cannot afford to keep all of its stars.
Dan Martin, Julian Alaphilippe, Marcel Kittel and Philippe Gilbert will all demand better contracts given their performances. German sprinter Kittel joined, for example on a last-minute, low-cost deal for the 2016 season when rival Mark Cavendish was leaving for Dimension Data.
With the rise of 22-year-old Gaviria, some insiders are reporting that Kittel could leave. One option is Katusha, with Alexander Kristoff tipped to depart, and German sponsors already in place thanks to bike partner Canyon and shampoo sponsor Alpecin.
Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert could leave as well, with his destination yet to be decided. After riding with BMC Racing for five years, he had joined on a one-year contract and raised his profile with an outstanding solo win at the Tour of Flanders as well as the Amstel Gold Race trophy two weeks later.
Nearly every team it seems is trying to sign 24-year-old Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe.
Luxembourger Bob Jungels has plenty of offers too, but he wants to stay with Lefevere’s team and develop into a grand tour star.
The 24-year-old topped Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) in the final day time trial to win the white jersey in the Giro d’Italia.
He also won a stage in Bergamo and finished eighth overall.