Deceuninck-QuickStep manger Patrick Lefevere has described Sky’s withdrawal from cycling as a blow to the sport as a whole. However, if there is a silver lining for the Belgian boss, it’s that, if Team Sky do survive beyond this year, their financial advantage might be clipped.
Team Sky were created in 2010 and, with a budget that comfortably outstrips the rest of the WorldTour outfits, have gone on to win six editions of the Tour de France, along with the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. Yet the future of the team was thrown into doubt last month when it was announced that the broadcaster Sky will end its backing of the team at the end of 2019.
Lefevere is familiar with the situation in which counterpart Dave Brailsford finds himself. The long-standing Quick-Step manager spent much of last season searching for fresh investment to secure the future of his team, eventually bringing Deceuninck on board as title sponsor, but not before marquee riders like Niki Terpstra and Fernando Gaviria had upped sticks for bigger contracts elsewhere.
Lefevere proudly presented his 2019 set-up in Calpe, Spain, on Tuesday, where he spoke about the Sky situation.
"I had some telephone calls from people who probably thought I was a happy man that Sky is disappearing, but that’s totally not true," Lefevere said. "It’s never good thinking about Manchester United or Real Madrid disappearing from football. It’s a sad story."
Quick-Step were the most successful team in the peloton in 2018, topping the win rankings once again and even breaking their own record with 73 victories. Despite Lefevere’s success in recent years, he hasn’t had the financial free rein enjoyed by Brailsford in the transfer market, and has increasingly had to say goodbye to key riders, while looking to bring younger riders through.
Many have questioned whether Team Sky’s financial superiority is healthy for the sport, given that their budget is reportedly more than double the WorldTour average of €18 million. Lefevere insisted that he wants to see the team continue, but on a scale that would ensure more of a level playing field.
"I hope for Dave that he finds new money, but I hope he finds 25 million [Euro] – not 40, then the competition will be not so uneven anymore," Lefevere said.
"Then he has to leave riders, like I had to do with Niki or Gaviria, and that means that he cannot think anymore with his wallet; he has to think with his head when he buys a rider."