Elia Viviani has confirmed he will leave Deceuninck-QuickStep in 2020 despite his sprint success at the Tour de France, with team manager Patrick Lefevere admitting he does not have the budget to match the offers of other teams keen to sign the Italian.
Viviani told Cyclingnews on Monday that the Tour de France would decide his future, with further sprint success only raising the vale of his next contract.
Under UCI rules, Viviani cannot announce his future team until August 1 but Cyclingnews understands he has reached a deal with Cofidis, who are set to step-up to WorldTour level in 2020 and have the backing of the French loan maker until 2021.
Lefevere, who has also confirmed that Viviani will move on, is keen to sign Sam Bennett from Bora-Hansgrohe. He also has Alvaro Hodeg and Fabio Jakobsen already on his books but is likely to lose lead-out man Maximiliano Richeze, who will join up with close friend and former teammate Fernando Gaviria at UAE Team Emirates.
"I feel great in the team and I want to stay, but we have to come to an agreement and that didn’t work out," Viviani admitted on the Sporza evening Tour de France show on Tuesday night as he celebrated his first ever Tour victory in Nancy.
Lefevere has helped Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel and other sprinters enjoy successful spells during their careers thanks to the strength of his team as a whole, but he always drives a hard bargain in transfer negotiations, often offering a low salary with high bonuses for victories. He managed to save his team at the end of last season, securing Belgian window producer Deceuninck as title sponsor, but is struggling to compete against rival teams with bigger budgets.
Julian Alaphilippe has extended his contract but Paris-Roubaix winner Philippe Gilbert is expected to move to rival Belgian team Lotto Soudal.
"Riders have to make their own careers, so if you can get more money in another team, you can’t block them," Lefevere told Cyclingnews.
"It’s a question of money, of course. I have the budget I have but I’m a bookkeeper and if I have money missing at the end of the year, I have to put it in myself. I’ll never do that."
Speaking to Belgian media, Lefevere added: "Everyone also knows that Viviani is leaving the team but I’ll still pay him until the end of December.
"It goes without saying that we had to look for an alternative to Viviani. We think we found that with Bennett."