Warren Barguil has a contract with Team Sunweb for 2018 but his two mountain victories, his polka-dot jersey, and his huge potential as a future Tour de France contender could see him try to leave the German-registered squad to secure a clear leadership role elsewhere for next year’s Tour de France.
According to reports in both L'Equipe and De Telegraaf, Barguil and his entourage are considering their options. Team Sky and Astana are reported to have shown interest but a return to France seems more logical. The Fortuneo-Oscaro team is Breton, like Barguil, while Jerome Pineau's new team is expected to be backed by Breton-based farm product supplier Vital Concept.
Team Sunweb is keen to keep Barguil but is also reported to be open to offers. In a brief exchange with Cyclingnews after stage 19, Barguil confirmed that he has a contract with Team Sunweb for 2018, but was evasive about if he will stay with the team
Do you have a contract with Team Sunweb for next year?
"Yes, yes," Barguil said.
So will you stay with the team?
"I've got a contract for next year," he said, elegantly side-stepping the question.
Barguil made it clear after his victory at the summit of the Col d'Izoard that he wants to target overall victory in the 2018 Tour de France. However, Team Sunweb also has Giro d'Italia winner Tom Dumoulin on its roster and is about to win the green jersey with Michael Matthews. Both could rightly demand leadership and support at the 2018 Tour de France and Team Sunweb agreed to a new, bigger contract with Dumoulin after his Giro d'Italia victory.
Team Sunweb also has Wilco Kelderman and several other young talented stage race riders on its books. While long-term sponsorship is in place, the team may struggle to find the extra budget needed to pay Barguil what he now deserves after his hugely successful Tour de France. Team leadership for the Giro d'Italia is unlikely to appeal to Barguil, and letting him go for a significant fee could be the best solution for everyone involved.
"Now we have almost too many guys," Team Sunweb manager Iwan Spekenbrink told several reporters, including Cyclingnews about the role of Barguil, Dumoulin and his many talents in the team.
"We have to make a plan on how to fit the puzzle together. There's never too much talent in a team but it's a challenge. Many of our guys have a contract and I'm sure that many teams would like to take him away. That's how it works."
A rider can end his contract early if both his current and future team reach an agreement. Transfer type deals are rare in professional cycling, but they do happen. Team Sky paid Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream squad a reported seven-figure fee to secure Bradley Wiggins as team leader for his debut season in 2010.
L'Equipe suggests that Barguil's future will be decided in the next few days. The French newspaper suggested that he will also be part of the Team Sunweb squad for the Vuelta a Espana that starts in Nimes. However, that could change depending on his long-term future.
Spekenbrink deferred any talk about future leadership roles at Team Sunweb until after the finish of the Tour de France in Paris. He has preferred to let unhappy riders leave his team rather than have to deal with internal tension. Both Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb have moved on in recent years after winning stages at the Tour de France and major Classics.
"First we've got to get to Paris. We're still in the Tour and the important thing in Grand Tours is do as well as you can but also live the moment. Then, afterwards, you calm down, relax and really start thinking about future goals," Spekenbrink said.
"I really believe in our top sport vision, that's the centre line of our team. We don't facilitate single riders and their dreams because they get better and they get worse. We believe in our culture, how we think and how we always try to improve and develop. It's very demanding and so sometimes some people cannot fit in it any more. But if you can live with it, I think it's the right way."