Iwan Spekenbrink has moved to calm any growing tension between his Giant Alpecin team and Etixx QuickStep's Patrick Lefevere by denying that he raced Marcel Kittel too hard in 2015 and that he did not pander to ASO by selecting the German for a number of races.
Kittel broke free from his contract at Giant Alpecin and moved to Etixx QuickStep for the start of next season. The German endured a disappointing season in which he struggled for fitness, form and confidence and after missing huge chunks of the season he and Spekenbrink came to an agreement to annul the rider's contract.
In a recent interview with Sporza Lefevere criticised Spekenbrink's handling of the Kittel situation, stating that the rider was pressured into racing in Oman and Qatar in order to please race organisers ASO. The Belgian team manager added that he was stronger when it came to dealing with the Tour de France organisers.
Spekenbrink told Cyclingnews, however, that he stood up to the UCI, and was part of the discussions when teams - as part of Velon – struggled for the reforms with ASO. The Dutch manager told Cyclingnews that a war of words with Lefevere so soon after the ink had dried on Kittel's new contract was not in his or Lefevere interests, and reminded the Belgian that Kittel's race programme was not as ASO-friendly as he had thought.
"Patrick has spoken about us and not with us so it's not something I'm that keen on discussing. I know that if I have something to say I do it directly. I don't understand the purpose of his comments,” Spekenbrink told Cyclingnews.
"With the ASO point it's not correct. Firstly Marcel didn't race in Oman and secondly if we were only about pleasing ASO, as Patrick says, then we would have sent him to the Tour. I just consider it a compliment that Patrick has talked to the press about us. It shows how much we matter. I've also worked as part of the reforms in cycling, along with a number of other teams and Velon, and fought for the teams and riders against some of the ASO proposals. Patrick is aware of that."
Spekenbrink also played down the split between his team and Kittel. Giant Alpecin recently re-signed Warren Barguil and Tom Dumoulin, while also bringing on board Laurens ten Dam. Although they've lost one the fastest sprinters in the world, they've looked to become a more rounded team.
"At this team we always work with our riders in the best ways possible I don't think I have to justify that and we even supported Marcel to find a new future for himself. Our team is demanding but we look for the best from our riders and we work with them to get the best from a healthy cooperation through development."