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Top teams exploring breakaway league

Updated: 2024-01-01 09:20
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File photo of Jonas Vingegaard (center). [Photo/Agencies]

Who will win the next Tour de France is obviously going to be a hot topic in 2024 but talk of a new cycling league could also take center stage as a handful of teams look to reshape the structure of the sport.

Danish star Jonas Vingegaard is the hot favorite to snatch a third consecutive Tour title, although Slovenia's Tadej Pogacar, who is more of an all-rounder, could be a strong challenger if he does not favor the Giro d'Italia.

Belgian prodigy Remco Evenepoel is expected to make his Tour debut in what could be another vintage edition.

Pogacar, twice Tour champion, is at a crossroads.

He can go all in for another Tour title or aim at winning more 'Monuments' — the top five classics — and add the Giro or Vuelta to his list of achievements as well as the Olympic title, which will be decided on the streets of Paris in the summer.

The Olympics will see Britain look to maintain its dominance on the track after Team GB scooped nine medals — five of them gold — at the world championships, with the Netherlands not far behind with four titles.

The sport is looking at a potential major revamp as top teams want a bigger slice of the cake in an industry dominated by Tour de France owner Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), who also runs the Vuelta and other major stage and one-day races.

A handful of European teams have been exploring plans to create a new competitive league in a move that could reshape the sport's landscape and allocate more funding for participants, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Hush-hush talks

External investors could help finance the project, two of the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private. The venture could amalgamate new and existing races, one of them added.

Britain's Ineos Grenadiers are involved in the hush-hush talks as well as Vingegaard's Jumbo-Visma team.

Big Four accounting and consulting firm Ernst& Young (EY) is seeking expressions of interest from potential investors, two of the people said.

Among those showing interest is CVC Partners, the former owner of Formula One motor racing, two of the people said. A spokesperson for CVC declined to comment.

The project aims to distribute some of the gains from cycling events among the teams, which currently rely largely on external sponsorship for funding.

"It's obvious that cycling is a sleeping giant and deserves an improved business model," Jumbo-Visma team manager Richard Plugge told Reuters, without elaborating.

Any deal would follow a trend in other global sports such as golf and tennis, where investors have poured in new capital and attracted players and clubs to compete with the older, established events.

Without ASO's blessing, however, a deal is unlikely to be struck.

This is not the first time cycling teams have explored a new cycling league project. Eight teams founded a league project called World Series Cycling (WSC) at the end of 2012 but the plans failed to materialize.


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