Richie Porte, Greg Van Avermaet and Wout Van Aert are close to securing deals for 2019, which could see them leaving their current 2018 teams.
Riders are confirming their contracts for 2019 now even if the official date for signing and announcing new deals starts on August 1.
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“BMC Racing, I heard they have about 60 per cent of the budget needed to continue the team under a different name,” said one source.
“The problem is, riders like Porte, Van Avermaet, and [Rohan] Dennis are getting nervous, wondering if Jim Ochowicz will come through with the money and in the meantime, if the other teams making them offers will wait. It’s a nervous time.”
General manager Jim Ochowicz gave his riders a deadline last week for him to get the funding in place to continue the team, but the riders reportedly have yet to hear a confirmation.
BMC is pulling out after a long 12-year run. Ochowicz knew already, working hard to confirm sponsorship over the last year to keep one of cycling’s biggest teams rolling into 2019.
It may be too late. He could be losing his star riders; the bait to attack the big catch.
BMC’s contribution was big, with a rumoured payout of around €25 million for the 2018 season. Ochowicz needs plenty to continue with Van Avermaet, 2017 Paris-Roubaix victor, and recent Tour de Suisse winner Porte.
“Porte is definitely close to Trek,” said another source, commenting on a piece that appeared on Cyclingnews. Porte reportedly already signed a three-year deal with Trek-Segafredo.
Tejay van Garderen, fifth twice in the Tour de France, could be heading home to EF Education First-Drapac. After suffering in recent years, it is unsure if he would race for the classification in Grand Tours or help riders like Michael Woods. In the 2018 Tour, the American will throw his support behind Porte.
Van Avermaet may be too rich for many people’s taste. The talented Belgian, winner of the 2016 Olympic road race, will pull in €2 to 3 million euro, but needs support men and staff – an operation that many teams cannot afford.
BMC Bicycles is already rumoured to be supplying Dimension Data in 2019, with current supplier Cervélo going to Team Sunweb with Tom Dumoulin.
Now, Van Avermaet may also be going along to the South African WorldTour team. It would depend on the budget the team has, if it can afford riders like Mark Cavendish and new hires like the Belgian star.
Bahrain-Merida had been trying to sign Van Avermaet, but may instead bring in emerging Belgian talent Wout Van Aert.
The Veranda’s Willems-Crelan rider, a three-time cyclocross world champion, soared through his first go at the Classics in 2018. The 23-year-old placed third in Strade Bianche, ninth in the Tour of Flanders and 13th in Paris-Roubaix.
“Van Aert we’ve always liked, we’ve been speaking with him and his agent since the Classics this year, but he has a contract through 2019 so it’s complicated,” Bahrain-Merida general manager Brent Copeland told Cycling Weekly.
“Even if he wants to concentrate on cyclocross, we feel that he wants to move over to the WorldTour. Honestly, I think it’s going to be more 2020 than 2019, it’ll be difficult for him to leave the contract he’s in at the movement. I’m not saying it’s impossible for 2019, though.”
“I want to make the decision soon,” Van Aert told VTM. “I want a strong team, even if I stay where I am. It’s really an important decision I’m going to make.”
Rohan Dennis, stage winner and wearer of the pink jersey in the 2018 Giro d’Italia, could also leave BMC Racing to join Bahrain-Merida. Copeland would not confirm the move, but it is said to be done.
The Yates twins, Adam and Simon, will stay with Mitchelton-Scott. UAE Team Emirates, with Dan Martin and Fabio Aru, made a “big offer” according to one source, but Englishmen will remain with Australian team they first joined from the amateurs.