There will be just 17 teams on the WorldTour next year, should the proposed merger between Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step occur, the UCI, cycling's governing body, has said.
Reports emerged last week that two of the top teams in cycling, the Dutch Jumbo-Visma, and the Belgian Soudal Quick-Step, were to merge, posing questions not just about the future of the team's riders and staff, but about cycling's sustainability as a sport.
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, reacting to what - at the moment - are just reports, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), said: "Any such operation must comply with the procedures and provisions set out in the UCI Regulations which, in particular, make it possible to ensure compliance with the contractual provisions for all personnel of the teams in question (riders, but also team management and other staff such as doctors, mechanics, sports assistants, drivers, etc.), which is of prime importance to the UCI."
On the number of teams on the WorldTour - which is currently 18 - the UCI said: "If the continuity of one of the teams could not be guaranteed for the 2024 season, the number of UCI WorldTeams would be 17 for the 2024 and 2025 seasons.
"As a result, the number of UCI ProTeams that are automatically invited to UCI WorldTour events would increase, in accordance with the provisions of article 2.1.007bis of the UCI Regulations."
Last week, Israel-Premier Tech and Uno-X both expressed an interest in a spot in the WorldTour should one become available; it now seems that this would not be an option. When Intermarché-Circus-Wanty joined the WorldTour in 2020, they bought the licence from CCC, which ceased to exist.
The UCI also reminded teams of their responsibility to register for an administrative, financial, and ethical check.
"Any significant change in a team's situation must be duly reported during the upcoming registration procedure so it can be assessed, in accordance with the UCI Regulations," it said.
Furthermore, the UCI said that it would publish an initial press release containing the list of teams that have submitted the essential information on October 19; any riders belonging to a team not included on the list would then be able to join another team, "without giving prior notice or paying compensation, in accordance with the provisions contained in the standard contract".
This week, both Soudal and Visma have confirmed their interest in maintaining title sponsor status should the proposed merger go ahead.
Speaking to Belgian outlet WielerFlits, Visma's director of content and sponsorship said that the deal to sponsor the team has a "long-term perspective" that should be ongoing.
"In terms of the future, we entered into this sponsorship in 2019 with a long-term perspective," said Anne-Grethe Thomle Karlsen. "As long as both parties see common value in this collaboration, that will not change."
Soudal's sponsorship and corporate communications manager told Het Laatste Nieuws that they also aimed to stay on board the project.
"Name sponsorship is our strength," said Marko Heijl. "It provides return on investment. Our marketing strategy is focussed on that, and until further notice there is no reason to deviate from it.
"We made a contractual commitment at the time as an enthusiastic name sponsor, and it is our ambition to remain so."
The merged super-team would also count on investment from Amazon, but it is unclear how much this would actually be in monetary value.
Wielerflits also reported on Tuesday that just six riders would make the jump from Soudal Quick-Step to Jumbo-Visma, with the merger also likely to see dozens of staff without jobs.
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