The Chief Financial Officer of the Jumbo supermarket chain has revealed that contract talks with Wout van Aert “look very good” as the Jumbo-Visma team try to fight off interest from rivals, including Ineos Grenadiers, for one of its team leaders.
Van Aert’s contract with Jumbo-Visma ends this year but the team are keen to renew it early and massively increase Van Aert’s salary to secure his services during the peak of his career. Based on other riders’ salaries, Van Aert could demand a new salary of at least €3 million per season, making him one of their highest-paid riders in the peloton.
In 2020, Van Aert was one of the best riders of the year – the 26-year-old Belgian won Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo, two stages in the Tour de France and finished second in both the road race and time trial at the World Championships.
He was also a close second at the Tour of Flanders, losing in a sprint to cyclo-cross rival Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). Van Aert impressed in the mountains at the Tour de France while working for Primož Roglič and is expected to vie for the green points jersey in the years to come as he continues to target the Classics and short stage races.
Unlike some team sponsors, the Jumbo supermarket chain has grown significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, boosting turnover by 15 per cent in 2020 to €9.68 billion. The company will open 10 stores in Belgium and celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2021, with Van Aert seen as important for the future.
“We have an important ambassador in Belgium,” Ton van Veen, CFO of Jumbo Supermarket said in a New Year’s message to staff, according to Wielerflits. “Wout van Aert is very important to us for building brand awareness in Belgium. And promoting the Jumbo brand in Belgium.
“I can reveal that we are in talks with the Jumbo-Visma cycling team to extend his contract. He still has a commitment for this year but we want to keep him longer. Those negotiations look very good. We will also hear about that in the coming days and we are very happy with that.”
Van Aert became a father earlier this week when his partner Sarah De Bie gave birth to a baby boy. He is focused on his cyclo-cross racing at the moment and is the favourite to win the Belgian national title this weekend.
He has not commented on his future but is reportedly happy to stay at Jumbo-Visma and seek guarantees of his status within the team’s hierarchy. His agent Jef Van den Bosch has reportedly sounded out possible other teams, including Ineos Grenadiers, as alternatives.
Van Aert could help with Dave 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 has 11 industrial sites in Belgium and employs several thousand people, adding a local dimension to any deal with Van Aert. Protesters recently targeted Ineos Grenadiers vehicles at their Belgian Service Course with reports suggesting they were protesting a new chemical plant that Ineos is building in the port of Antwerp that aims to make durable plastics from recycled feedstock.
Ineos is one of Europe’s biggest producers of plastics, and the petrochemical company has had to fend off accusations of ‘sportswashing’ since being announced as the team’s sponsor.
Jumbo-Visma also have Roglič, Tom Dumoulin, Steven Kruijswijk and Dylan Groenewegen under contract, but know the value of Van Aert to their current and future sponsors and seem ready to invest a chunk of their budget in keeping him in the team.
The Jumbo-Visma team told Cyclingnews it never reacts to rumours and so did not want to comment. Van Aert’s agent refused to comment when he was linked to Ineos, telling Het Laatste Nieuws: “I’m not communicating about the ongoing discussions.”