Patrick Lefevere has not ruled out signing both Philippe Gilbert and Jurgen Van den Broeck for the 2012 season. The riders’ futures have been cast in doubt following the announcement that Omega-Pharma and Quick Step are to merge next season, while confusion reigns over contractual rights. Both riders had signed contracts running into 2012 with the current Omega Pharma-Lotto team management company BCC, who will manage Omega Pharma-Quickstep in 2012.
Gilbert has been heavily linked with BMC and Cyclingnews understands that at least one of his key domestiques has already signed for the American team, paving the way for a transfer. However BCC and Omega Pharma manager Geet Coeman have held firming, telling the Belgian press last week that Gilbert had a deal for next year. Coeman told Het Laatse Nieuws: "Gilbert was a free agent if the team ceased to exist, but we are continuing."
Patrick Lefevere has told Cyclingnews that the merger between his current Quick Step team and Omega has been moving in the right direction but that the final make up of the squad would depend on how Gilbert’s case was resolved.
“The merger is going well,” he told Cyclingnews.
“Gilbert’s future all depends on what happens in the coming weeks. In the next week or two a lot more will happen and things will be a lot clearer. I don’t know where he’ll be next season and he has said there are a number of options and we’re hoping that we’re one of them. Honestly though, it looks like it’s between us and BMC.”
“We have 27 riders this year and I think 7 or 8 will be without contracts.”
Lefevere also told Cyclingnews that Jurgen Van Den Broeck was in a similar situation to Gilbert in that he too had a contract with BCC for 2012. It had previously been reported that Jurgen Van Den Broeck wanted to remain with Lotto, who are building their own team after their split with Omega Pharma. However Lefevere admitted that he was still in the market for a stage race rider. Van den Broeck finished fifth overall in the 2010 Tour de France but crashed out of this year's race.
“Why not Van Den Broeck? I don’t think he has a contract with Lotto. That’s what his manager told me. He had a contract with BCC but that’s the contract that runs us. I’ll sit down with his manager later this week,” Lefevere said.
The expereinced Flemish team manager revealed that the deal between Quick Step and Omega Pharma will run for two years, although Omega Pharma had originally pushed for four. The deal does have an option for a two-year extension.
“It was clear that Lotto wanted to start a new team with a strategy more focused on young riders and Belgian riders and Omega Pharma wanted something else," Lefevere said. "The first time we spoke it was because the manager of Gilbert pushed us together because he had a contract. That was before the Tour but for one or another reason we couldn’t find an agreement and they were talking with other companies like Leopard, HTC and Vacansoleil.”