Though he is Olympic champion, a winner of Roubaix, and currently in yellow, Greg Van Avermaet is scrambling to find a team for 2019.
The Belgian, 33, is the last big name free on the market for next season. His contract with BMC Racing ends at the close of 2018, and with BMC Racing still facing an uncertain future, Van Avermaet’s future is also unknown.
Van Avermaet’s agent, Dries Smets, declined to provide details on Van Avermaet’s plans, or name which teams Van Avermaet has spoken to.
“Negotiations are ongoing,” Smets said. “Apart from that, I can’t comment.”
According to sources familiar with cycling’s transfer market, Van Avermaet’s timing could create hurdles for his contract negotiations.
“We are getting in July, he’s running out of options,” one general manager, not wanting to be named, said at the Tour de France.
“In the end, he’s going to have to accept what comes along from Dimension Data, maybe a €2 million contract — at the most.”
Van Avermaet earns around €1.2 million with BMC Racing now. He won the 2016 Olympic road race in Rio de Janeiro. ‘Golden Greg’ blasted through the 2017 season with victories in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, and Paris-Roubaix.
He wears the yellow jersey now in the 2018 Tour de France after team BMC Racing won the team time trial stage Monday ahead of Team Sky.
Van Avermaet had three potential options with team directors Doug Ryder of Dimension Data, former Astana boss Marc Biver, and Jim Ochowicz of BMC Racing. Now he is down to just one, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Biver was to start a new team but put the project on hold until 2020. Ochowicz has yet to find or confirm a new backer to continue the BMC Racing team. Van Avermaet’s teammate Richie Porte is linked to Trek-Segafredo, and other BMC riders are looking for new teams.
BMC is leaving as a bike sponsor. It is likely that the Swiss brand will back Team Dimension Data. The team’s current bike supplier Cervélo may move to support Team Sunweb.
“If that’s the case, Doug Ryder holds the power and can name the price,” said a top agent wishing not to be named. “With more teams available, Van Avermaet can establish the price.”
Van Avermaet had said before that he wanted to sign his biggest contract yet for 2019. If it is just Ryder calling for his signature at Dimension Data, then Van Avermaet may be limited to €1.8 to 1.5 million. If there are two teams or more, he could play games, asking €2 million or with three teams, €2.5 million.
“Every day his value is going up when he is in the yellow jersey at the Tour,” the agent added, “but with only one team calling, he is limited.”
Stories have linked BMC Racing to a possible merger with CCC Sprandi Polkowice. On Wednesday, BMC Racing’s Jim Ochowicz said, “These are rumors and we do not comment on rumors.”
Without any other possibility, Van Avermaet would likely turn to Ryder and his South African WorldTour team Dimension Data.
Ryder declined to comment on the possibility of inking Van Avermaet.
“Wouldn’t that be amazing, but there’s no comment,” Ryder said of the Van Avermaet move. Ryder did confirm that the team is changing bike sponsors.
“Cervélo are not going to renew with us,” Ryder said. “That’s definitely happening, that’s already out there. We have many options, BMC being one, but we haven’t committed to anything.”
He added of a possible BMC and Van Avermaet deal, “Those are completely different. The BMC deal and Van Avermaet are separate. They are not linked.
“We will look at a bike company on its own, but of course, bike brands and teams are reliant on individuals. I don’t even know if BMC would come and tell us that [Van Avermaet] is needed.”
Ryder is also negotiating to keep Deloitte as a sponsor and Mark Cavendish as his star sprinter. The team is continuing to also develop GC rider Louis Meintjes.