News Round-up: Chris Froome to finish 2023 season in China and Japan

Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step merger, Annemiek van Vleuten takes on gravel, and Mathieu van der Poel tests Paris Olympics MTB course

Clock16:50, Monday 25th September 2023
Chris Froome is set to return to racing in October after more than three months away from competition

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Chris Froome is set to return to racing in October after more than three months away from competition

As the 2023 season starts to wind down, attention is beginning to turn to the Italian Classics, riders' end-of-season goals, and of course, transfers. Today, the biggest story by far has been the reports of a possible merger between Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step, which could bring significant changes to the peloton. In other transfer news, Ineos Grenadiers are locking in riders for 2024, and you can keep up with all the latest moves in our transfer guide. Elsewhere, we've got an update to Chris Froome's calendar, a return to racing for Annemiek van Vleuten, and news from the Paris Olympics mountain biking test event.

Chris Froome to finish 2023 season in China and Japan

After not racing since July, Chris Froome will pin on a number again in 2023 as he is expected to head to China and Japan for late-season races.

The team have confirmed to Velo that the multiple-time Grand Tour winner will be back in action before the season is out, taking part in the Tour of Hainan and the Japan Cup in October.

Froome has raced very little since July, after he was left out of the Israel-Premier Tech Tour de France squad, despite being a four-time yellow jersey winner. His last race was the Czech Tour at the end of July, which he did not finish, pulling out on the final stage.

With the Brit away from racing for so long, it was unclear whether he would compete again before the year finished, or call it a day with only the tail-end of the season left.

Froome has been having fun on the bike away from competing, including riding with Mark Cavendish, and today posting his own bike-themed ASMR video to social media.

No confirmation or denial of Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step merger rumour

Twenty four hours after the news of a possible Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step merger broke, it is still not much clearer what the future of the two teams will be, with no one on either side offering a confirmation or denial of the story reported in WielerFlits on Sunday.

According to the report, the two teams are working on a merger for the 2024 season, which would see the two WorldTour outfits combine under one licence.

Read more: Report: Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step looking to merge teams

However, despite rumours swirling for a whole day now, neither party have officially commented on the rumours, with Patrick Lefevere speaking to media but failing to offer any sort of confirmation or denial into the veracity of the reports.

A spokesperson for Jumbo-Visma did respond to GCN, saying: "We usually don’t respond to rumours. There were many… Jumbo-Visma with Neom, Ineos with Evenepoel. And now this… Several options are open and time will tell (soon)."

GCN also understands that, when the story broke, Jumbo-Visma riders were not aware of the prospect of a merger, and the news came as a complete shock.

“I heard the news for the first time ten minutes ago when a teammate asked me about it,” one Jumbo rider, who wished to remain anonymous, told GCN on Sunday evening. “It’s a big surprise for me. In the team we’ve not spoken about it and it’s a big surprise.”

Read more: Jumbo-Visma riders in the dark over possible merger with Soudal Quick-Step

GCN will bring you all the latest news and insight into this emerging story as we have it.

Annemiek van Vleuten to ride Gravel World Championships

Just weeks after officially ending her illustrious road racing career, Annemiek van Vleuten has confirmed that she will be lining up for the upcoming Gravel World Championships in Veneto on October 7.

The 40-year-old finished her final road race at the Simac Ladies Tour earlier this month, but will already be pinning a number on at next month’s gravel event, she confirmed to Dutch publication AD’s podcast In Het Wiel.

“In a crazy mood I said 'yes' to that,” Van Vleuten told In Het Wiel. “The team liked it, the sponsors liked it and I also found it fun to participate.”

Despite hinting in a pre-retirement interview that she might take up some gravel racing - a popular path among retired road pros these days - she said this wasn’t the start of a career in off-road.

“I have no ambitions in a gravel career, so I think I will end it here,” she said.

Demi Vollering, Lorena Wiebes and Wout van Aert are also expected to line up at the World Championships, in an event where the road racers may be the headline stars.

To read the full story, click here.

Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock outside top 20 in Paris Olympics Test Event as Koretzky, Lecomte win

The best cross-country mountain bikers headed to Paris this weekend for an XCO test event ahead of the Paris Olympics. As well as a chance to get to know the Elancourt Hill course, the event was also a race, with French riders Victor Koretzky and Loana Lecomte coming out on top.

Much attention was placed on road world champion Mathieu van der Poel, who is hoping to compete in Paris next year after crashing out in Tokyo, and XCO world champion and defending Olympic gold medalist Tom Pidcock. However, neither rider particularly shone on Sunday, both finishing outside of the top 20 - 28th for Van der Poel, and 36th for Pidcock, who is recovering from a saddle sore infection.

“My condition is no longer that good after a long season, and you can't hide that on the mountain bike," Van der Poel told Dutch publication AD, before also adding that he would have to ride more mountain bike events next year if he hopes to win in Paris.

Read more: Mathieu van der Poel may only ride one week of 2024 Tour de France

Olympic hopeful and short track world champion Sam Gaze also finished down the list in the men’s race, whilst some surprising names made it into the top 10, suggesting the big favourites perhaps weren’t going all-out with two more World Cups still to prepare for this season.

In the women’s race, Loana Lecomte took the victory ahead of Laura Stigger and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot in a top 10 that looked more comparable to the World Cups so far. Defending Olympic champion finished 22nd, whilst star of 2023 Puck Pieterse settled for ninth.

The first test event may not necessarily have revealed much about who will be in contention next summer, but it has given riders and fans the first look at the Elancourt course, which looks to be a course suited to the powerful and strong riders.

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