Fernando Gaviria is set to make a surprise mid-contract transfer from Quick-Step Floors to UAE Team Emirates according to a report in La Gazzetta dello Sport, as the Belgian team tries to balance its books for the 2019 season due to a lack of a new title sponsor.
Lefevere has made it clear the team will survive but Quick-Step Floors will become a secondary sponsor and he has so far failed to secure a new title sponsor to replace the flooring company despite the huge success of the team, which has claimed 69 victories so far this season.
Lefevere is trying to complete the registration process for a place in the 2019 WorldTour and has to confirm his overall budget and rider roster later this month. He is apparently working on reducing his rider budget, with Spain’s Enric Mas linked with a move to Astana after his second place at the Vuelta a España.
The signing of Gaviria would boost UAE Team Emirates’ chances in the sprints. Alexander Kristoff is under contract with the team for 2019 but could focus more on the Classics and share the sprinting responsibilities with Gaviria. Fabio Aru and Dan Martin will lead UAE Team Emirates in stage races and Grand Tours.
UCI rules allow riders under contract to transfer teams. These have to take place in the so-called transfer window of August 1 -December 31 if a riders changes teams between two seasons. The UCI Professional Cycling Council also has to approve the transfer.
It is not clear if UAE Team Emirates would also pay a fee to Quick Step Floors to secure Gaviria's services. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the teams have agreed a deal and Gaviria has already agreed personal terms with UAE Team Emirates, where he is likely to continue to earn close to two million Euro per season.
There was no reaction from Quick Step Floors, UAE Team Emirates and Gaviria's agent Giovanni Lombardi when contacted by Cyclingnews.
Gaviria turned professional with Quick-Step Floors in 2016, sharing sprint duties with Marcel Kittel following the departure of Mark Cavendish. The Colombian won four stages at the 2017 Giro d’Italia and became the team’s lead sprinter for 2018 when Kittel opted to move to Katusha-Alpecin. Gaviria won two stages at the Tour de France this season and wore the yellow jersey for a day but missed the time cut on stage 12 to L’Alpe d’Huez.
Gaviria missed all the spring classics in 2018 after fracturing a metacarpal in his left hand during Tirreno-Adriatico. He has endured mixed results in the Classics and has so far failed to win a sprint in the second half of the season. By comparison, Quick-Step’s Elia Viviani has won 18 times this year, while Fabio Jakobsen and Álvaro José Hodeg have shown their sprinting ability and won races in recent months.
Quick-Step have already lost Tour of Flanders winner Nikki Terpstra to Direct Energie and Maximilian Schachmann to Bora-Hansgrohe due to budget restraints, but have Philippe Gilbert, Bob Jungels and Julian Alaphilippe as team leaders. They have also signed double junior world champion Remco Evenepoel, who will bypass the under-23 ranks to race as a professional in 2019.