After Peter Sagan told Cyclingnews that he would look for a new team if Bora-Hansgrohe are not interested in renewing his contract, Deceuninck-QuickStep have emerged as the most logical destination, with bike sponsor Specialized likely to play a key role in ensuring the three-time world champion moves to the Belgian team.
Deceuninck-QuickStep won the Tour of Flanders with Kasper Asgreen on Sunday, yet again confirming their ability to win the biggest Classics in the sport. Team manager Patrick Lefevere has revealed he is close to securing the future of the team and he wants to begin a new phase of development that would see Remco Evenepoel lead the team in Grand Tours.
It seems both window manufacturer Deceuninck and flooring brand QuickStep are keen to stay on as title sponsors, but Lefevere is looking for a bigger budget so he can compete against the likes of Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates.
According to French newspaper L’Equipe, Sagan joining Deceuninck-QuickStep with financial support from Specialized would resolve everyone's problems.
Lefevere would secure key sponsorship from Specialized and also ensure his riders continue to use some of the best bikes in the peloton. Sagan’s arrival could also attract new sponsorship to boost his stretched budget.
Sagan would perhaps have to accept a cut in salary from his reported €5 million per year deal but he would join a team that knows how to win the Classics and get the best out of their riders. Philippe Gilbert moved to the team when he was 34 and won the Tour of Flanders in 2017 and then Paris-Roubaix in 2019.
Sagan turned 31 in January and is in his 12th season at WorldTour level. During his career, he has won 114 individual races, including three world titles, seven Tour de France green points jerseys, three editions of Gent-Wevelgem as well as the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
He has been the biggest personality in the peloton for almost a decade. However, the arrival of a new generation of riders, led by Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel in the Classics, has sparked a sea change in the peloton, with teams chasing the next great thing and casting off older riders.
Both Van Aert and Van der Poel are under contract and so Lefevere could be tempted to try to relaunch Sagan’s career.
Lefevere revealed to Het Nieuwsblad that he is currently building the cornerstones of the team and that Sagan could be one of them.
"On my terms, yes (Sagan interests me). But not a word has been said about it yet, so I can't say much about it."
Cyclingnews, like L’Equipe, understands that funding from Specialized could be the key to Sagan’s arrival at Deceuninck-QuickStep but that no deal has yet been discussed in detail.
Lefevere would have to carefully balance his books if he wants to sign Sagan and keep the services of Julian Alaphilippe, Asgreen, sprinter Sam Bennett and Evenepoel. But he has always been able to offer below market salaries due to the support Deceuninck-QuickStep offer their riders. He has a contract option with Alaphilippe, Evenepoel and another talented Belgian Mauri Vansevenant that means they have to stay with Deceuninck-QuickStep if he matches offers from rival teams.
Lefevere is fighting to retain his other key riders, but he appears to have given up on trying to keep João Almeida, who has been linked with UAE Team Emirates.
"It is going in the right direction, but I have not yet reached the budget that I have in mind," Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad of his work on the 2022 team.
"My leaders are being preyed on, yes. Everyone is trying to take my squad apart. It is up to me to keep them together. That's why I have to sign-up a number of men now. Not all 30, but the cornerstones for the coming years."
Lefevere has always known how to play a long game when building his roster, knowing he has multiple options and that riders' salary requests often fall as the end of the season nears.
"The cycling season doesn’t end at the Tour of Flanders, does it? That would mean the world is upside down. Nobody is allowed to move on to the next year because he has good marks in just the first trimester," Lefevere warned.
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