Unlike the rumors of a move from the British team for Primož Roglič that circulated in the summer, this story has legs, with one source telling VeloNews that Ineos billionaire owner Jim Ratcliffe is desperate to land a potential Tour winner who can deliver immediate success.
Evenepoel’s Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team boss Patrick Lefevere revealed to VeloNews that Dave Brailsford, the team principal at Ineos Grenadiers, sent a message after the Belgian rider’s Vuelta a España win that read: “If one day you want to sell him give me a call.”
“It’s simple. Dave Brailsford texted me, and he doesn’t text that much,” Lefevere told VeloNews. “He said, ‘Congratulations, what a champ, and if one day you want to sell him give me a call.’ That was it. No more, no less.”
Was that not just a tongue-in-cheek comment?
“You can’t tell if someone is joking on Whatsapp. There was no smiley, no special face. Just a few words. Other colleagues just congratulated me, but if Dave wants Remco then he probably needs a lot of money,” Lefevere added.
Evenepoel, 22, is under contract at Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl until 2026 and recently won both the Vuelta a España and the men’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Australia.
He arrived back to Belgium earlier this week to a huge fanfare but with new question marks about his future following a transfer pursuit from Ineos.
There have been links between Ineos and the Belgian rider for a number of years, with the rider and his father meeting with the team several years ago at the squad’s base in Monaco.
Evenepoel is managed by his father, Patrick Evenepoel, who has been instrumental in the rider’s career since his junior days.
“We’ve had contact for years with them [Ineos] but there’s not been a meeting,” Evenepoel’s father told VeloNews.
“There was no meeting but we had a phone call with them. We’ve had contacts with them and I know Mr. Brailsford and Mr. Ellingworth. We have known each other for years. It’s normal that they call me to say congratulations with the Vuelta and after Liège.”
When asked if there had been a discussion over a possible switch to Ineos in the future, Evenepoel senior laughed before saying: “That discussion was already there three years ago.”
When asked specifically if a deal could be made for next year, he added: “I don’t know. Remco has a contract for five years with Quick-Step. I don’t know. It’s not for me to talk. We want to celebrate the Vuelta and the world championships, and what’s happening in the future, we will see what’s coming.”
Ineos Grenadiers owner desperate to land a Tour de France winner
Ineos seem intent on reclaiming the top stop at the Tour de France having gone through their leanest period of Tour success since the squad began a decade ago.
The team’s last yellow jersey came in 2019 via Egan Bernal, but the Colombian’s status has been hit by injury and a major accident in 2022.
It’s unclear if he will regain his position as a Tour winner, while this year’s event showcased the talent gap between Ineos’ grand tour leaders and those of UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma.
Jumbo-Visma won the Tour through Jonas Vingegaard, with Tadej Pogacar dominating the previous two editions. Although Ineos was able to post a rider on the Tour podium this year in Geraint Thomas, the Welshman is nearing the end of his career. Dani Martínez, another candidate for leadership, has yet to fulfill his Tour promise after a quiet showing in July.
With Adam Yates and Richard Carapaz both leaving for UAE Team Emirates and EF Education EasyPost, respectively, the British team has a major void when it comes to current leaders for grand tours.
The team has signed a host of talented young riders, but they still need time to develop, and even the likes of Tom Pidcock could be a year or two, at least, from competing for top-fives or podiums.
Meanwhile, Carlos Rodríguez, who impressed during the Vuelta a Espana in 2022, has been linked with a move to Movistar in 2024.
According to a source close to the team, Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe is desperate to land another Tour title after plowing millions into the team and only claiming one Tour and one Giro d’Italia crown since his arrival mid-way through the 2019 season.
Although the team is making progress in several area, a source told VeloNews that, “Jim wants to win the Tour now. There’s definitely something happening when it comes to Evenepoel.”
Evenepoel has a contract with Quick-Step until 2026 and is in line for both performance related bonuses or a new deal following his incredible campaign.
However, VeloNews has learned from a source close to the situation that there have been issues over bonuses leading to a degree of frustration on Evenepoel’s side.
When asked if a Vuelta bonus had been paid yet, Evenepoel’s father said: “It’s only been two weeks. He has a contract to pay the bonus though. Everything in time. I think it’s OK. He has meetings with the team about everything, but a contract is a contract.”
Lefevere has the majority of the power in this situation, assuming that he can meet all the financial terms of the current deal.
According to the team boss, there are no issues at all with regards to bonuses.
“He has a five-year contract. Everything was fixed one year ago when he signed for five years. There’s no regrets from anyone because we both know what we signed,” Lefevere said. “You have to ask his father if he’s not happy with the bonuses. There are no issues. The bonuses are fixed and the salaries are fixed for the next five years.”
This isn’t the first time a team has explored such an option.
In 2021, Bora-Hansgrohe reportedly went all-in on trying to buy the Belgian rider out of his contract only for Evenepoel to agree terms with Quick-Step for an additional five years.
There have been murmurs of discontent when it comes to the support Evenepoel needs in the mountains if he is to challenge for a Tour title. Jumbo-Visma, UAE and Ineos all provide better strength in depth, but Lefevere has attempted to balance the team’s classics and grand tour ambitions in the transfer market.
At this stage it would be almost unthinkable that Quick-Step boss Lefevere could or would allow the first Belgian in decades to win a grand tour simply walk out the door.
But Ineos is certainly keeping their ear to the ground knowing full well that if it could sign Evenepoel and break the rider’s contract, then they would immediately have a potential Tour winner in their ranks.
Will it happen?
It’s a huge long shot, and this could just be a tactic to draw out a better contract for Evenepoel, but there is definitely intent and interest on Ineos’ part.