Mathieu van der Poel's Alpecin-Fenix team will rebrand as Alpecin-Deceuninck from this year's Tour de France as they increase their budget for the imminent step up to cycling's top flight, the UCI WorldTour.
In a press conference in in Montesilvano on the rest day of the Giro d’Italia, manager Philip Roodhooft confirmed that they have applied for a WorldTour licence for 2023.
"The WorldTour is the next logical step for the team," said Roodhooft, who added that Deceuninck, currently a sub-sponsor of the team, would replace Fenix as a naming partner from the Tour de France onwards for both the men's and women's squads.
"It will increase our budget to make us become a better team than we are today," Roodhooft said. "Moving to the major league of cycling is a big step for us as a team, but also for Deceuninck."
Currently seventh in the rolling UCI ranking for the past three years, Alpecin-Fenix will comfortably meet the sporting criteria to be among the teams awarded licences for the 2023-25 period.
For the past two seasons, Alpecin-Fenix have earned automatic invitations to WorldTour races by finishing as the best-ranked ProTeam in the UCI rankings, though they currently trail Arkéa-Samsic in the 2022 standings.
"We see it as a consequence of the growth we had now, and winning the ranking of the ProTeams is not a given thing," Roodhooft said. "We have been very happy to do it two times in a row, but it creates a pressure. We're not afraid of pressure but this gives us a chance to work on the longer term."
Team leader Mathieu van der Poel has enjoyed sustained top-level success despite Alpecin-Fenix's ProTeam status, winning the Tour of Flanders twice and wearing the leader's jersey at the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, but he acknowledged that moving up to WorldTour level would make it easier to attract riders to the squad.
"It's quite important for sure. In my opinion we are already at the level of the WorldTour, but it's easier just to be in it," Van der Poel said. "For some riders it's also a smaller step to come from WorldTour teams to ours and I think that can be a benefit as well.
"I've never really had a problem with being ProTour, but I think we've shown as a team already we have our place in the WorldTour and now it's official. It's good to be part of it, of course."
Deceuninck joined Alpecin as a sub-sponsor ahead of the 2021 season, having previously served as title sponsor to Patrick Lefevere's QuickStep team. The producer of PVC systems for windows and doors has occupied a space on the back of Alpecin's shorts for the past 18 months, and its logo will now swap places on the team's kit with that of Fenix.
Deceuninck's three-year commitment runs through the end of 2025 and matches the duration of the WorldTour licence. It also matches the length of Van der Poel's existing contract with the team.
"For us, it's a coincidence, otherwise both contracts would have been made at the same time. It's linked to the next WorldTour licence," said Roodhooft, who explained that he had turned down the chance to move up the top flight at the end of 2020 when the defunct CCC Team's licence was available.
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert took over the licence then, while Alpecin-Fenix opted to stay at Pro Continental level.
"Two years ago, when the CCC licence was up for sale, we didn't see ourselves ready for the WorldTour," he said. "We wanted to do it in an organic way."
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.