Hopes to keep Chavanel and possibly sign more riders
Despite having already signed a trio of stars in the transfer window, Patrick Lefevere has not ruled out dipping into the market again. The Omega Pharma-QuickStep boss also revealed that he had been put off signing a grand tour contender until now due to cycling’s doping problems.
The transfer window officially opened on August 1 with Lefevere confirming the capture of Mark Renshaw, Alessandro Petacchi and Rigoberto Uran. Uran finished second in the Giro d’Italia this year and is expected to lead Lefevere’s squad in major stage races in 2014.
“Everyone said that we were always a team for the Classics and never did anything in the big tours. That was true but I never had the money to buy a classification rider and secondly I never trusted the situation in the past,” Lefevere told Cyclingnews.
The Belgian worked with a number of grand tour rider in the 1990s, including Pavel Tonkov, Abraham Olano and Tony Rominger. His last grand tour leader was Levi Leipheimer, but the American failed to reproduce his top form at Omega and then was fired after he testified and confessed to doping as part of USADA investigation.
“I remember two years ago I was close to losing the WorldTour licence at the UCI. I went to the commission and they said, ‘we can understand that Boonen has been injured, that Chavanel has crashed, but you’ve never had results in the big tours’. I said, okay here’s the results from the grand tours over the last ten years, I only see Xs on the podium. I asked if they wanted me to invest in something that I’m not sure about, and said that if they can guarantee that the biological passport is 100 per cent then I’d say yes,' but in the last two years I think a lot of things have changed in cycling,” Lefevere said.
The signing of Uran sees Lefevere attempt to cover all his bases for next year. The team missed out on a spring classic earlier in the season but they are undoublteldy stacked with talent in that department. Mark Cavendish's signing last year, and the recruitment of Petacchi and Renshaw, add further strength in depth to the team but Uran will provide a further dimension.
“You saw that he worked for Wiggins in the Giro and he lost around five minutes on one stage because of that. He still finished second and that’s not bad. That’s not me saying that he can now go out and win a Grand Tour, sometimes riders are unique when it comes to leading and it can be more difficult once they come out from another rider’s shadow,” Lefevere said.
“What’s for sure is that I’m not standing there with a gun in his face telling him he has to get on the podium in the Giro, Tour or Vuelta. If he does it though, of course I’ll be happy.”
With three riders already signed and announced, Lefevere has done the majority of his work in the market already. However he would not rule out further recruitment, with Euskaltel’s roster all looking for new teams.
“It depends on the moves in the market. Some people I have to speak to still as there are four or five riders in my team who are at the end of their contracts. There’s Euskaltel stopping and so there are a few riders who’ve done well in the mountains before and I’m interested in. But I’m not in a hurry.”
One rider Lefevere does appear keen on keeping is Sylvain Chavanel. The Frenchman’s contract is set to expire this year and a number of teams have expressed interest in the all-rounder. Chavanel has become an integral part of QuickStep’s one day and stage racing squads and Lefevere confirmed that he will have showdown talks with Chavanel next week.
“I see him next Monday in the Eneco Tour and then we’ll make some decision. Of course he’s very important to us, and it’s not just Chavanel the rider. He’s been a part of the success in the team over the last few years and he’s not only a rider but a gentlemen. He’s always happy, always motivated.”