Jumbo-Visma are hoping to agree a contract extension with Wout van Aert in the next few weeks but according to Dutch website Wielerflits, Ineos Grenadiers are also interested in the Belgian Classics rider, sprinter and cyclocross rider.
According to Wielerflits, Ineos manager Dave Brailsford tried to sign Van Aert back in 2018, and talked to his agent at this year’s Tour de France, with those conversations still ongoing.
Ineos are set to have a budget of around 50 million Euro for 2022 and Wielerflits suggest that Van Aert could overtake Peter Sagan as the highest earner in the WorldTour, earning as much as six million Euro a year.
Van Aert is said to be happy at Jumbo-Visma but his victories at Strade Bianche, Milan-Sanremo, his stage victories at the Tour de France and second place at the Tour of Flanders and both the road race and time trial world championships have confirmed his one of the stars of the sport.
His duel with Mathieu van der Poel and the pursuit of the green jersey at the Tour de France is set to be one of the biggest stories of the next five years. The two will clash at the Namur cyclocross World Cup race on Sunday.
Ineos have never won the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix and Van Aert could lead the team in the Classics, further strengthen the Ineos Tour de France squad and go on to target shorter stage races as he tests his Grand Tour ability.
Van Aert would also help with Brailsford’s plans to shake-off their robotic image and race more aggressively and more openly after their seven stage victories and overall success at the Giro d’Italia. Van Aert would lead a new Classics squad that also includes his younger cyclo-cross rival Tom Pidcock, Michel Kwiatkowski, Filippo Ganna, Luke Rowe and Dylan van Baarle.
Ineos also has 11 industrial sites in Belgium and employs several thousand people, adding a local dimension to any deal.
Jumbo-Visma also has a lot to offer to Van Aert and have grown to challenge and even defeat Ineos in recent years. The Dutch Jumbo supermarket chain has not suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic and has growing interests in Belgium, where Van Aert was recently crowned sportsman of the year.
The team have Tom Dumoulin, Primoz Roglic, Steven Kruijswijk and Dylan Groenewegen under contract but also know the value of Van Aert to potential other sponsors and ready to massively boost his salary in 2021 before his contract expires.
The reports of Ineos’ interest in Van Aert could be a simple ploy by his agent to spark a bidding war and so push Jumbo-Visma to raise their offer. However Van Aert has no doubt been contacted and considered by all the leading teams in the sport.
His agent Jef Van den Bosch refused to comment, telling Het Laatste Nieuws: “I’m not communicating about the ongoing discussions.”
The Belgian newspaper also said Jumbo-Visma refused to comment, while Ineos Grenadiers did not respond when contacted by Cyclingnews.