Thomas De Gendt rode a disappointing time trial in Florence today at the UCI Road World Championships where he finished 49th in a field of 77 riders. With the dissolution of his Vacansoleil-DCM team looming at the end of the season, the 26-year-old Belgian is growing increasingly pessimistic about his options for the 2014 season.
"If I can't sign with a WorldTour squad, I'd better quit cycling altogether," he told Sporza.
De Gendt finished third in last year's Giro d'Italia after his impressive victory on the Stelvio. This year, however, the Belgian only has one victory in his palmares, a stage win at the Volta a Catalunya, and his only other podium finish was third place in the Tour de France time trial to Mont St Michel.
"This year has been disastrous," said De Gendt. "Not only if you look at my own results but also because so many teams are folding."
Two WorldTour squads will cease to exist after this season, De Gendt's own Vacansoleil-DCM team plus the Euskaltel-Euskadi team which for a moment seemed to have been spared at the last moment by Formula 1 star Fernando Alonso only to have the negotiations come to a halt. The demise of two WorldTour squads means there are 55 riders shopping around for a new team. To date nine Vacanseoleil-DCM riders plus one Euskaltel-Euskadi rider have signed agreements for next season, leaving 45 more with uncertain futures.
De Gendt believes he has two options for 2014: Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Lampre-Merida, though the Italian team isn't a very concrete option yet. Patrick Lefevere, Omega Pharma-QuickStep's manager, has one place left in his team for 2014 and he indicated in Belgian media today it will be between Jan Bakelants and De Gendt.
"If you look at this year, Bakelants had a much better season," said De Gendt. "If you take the past five years into account, I should come out on top."
De Gendt had an option to sign with the Belgian team last year and his contract would have started in 2014. "I should have followed my gut feeling then. It would have meant a larger pay check, too."
With a large surplus of riders on the market now things are looking dire for De Gendt. "It's very quiet at the moment. If I can't find a WorldTour team for next year, I'd better quit. It would mean I have to ride a bad program with one-day races in Belgium which are not my cup of tea."
And while Hilaire Van der Schueren, his current sports director, is trying to form a new Pro Continental squad for next season, De Gendt doesn't consider that a viable option. "That's nothing for me. I could do 15 kermesses a year and I am better than that."