Deceuninck-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere has revealed that a 'market price' contract option could tie Julian Alaphilippe to the Belgian team until 2024, stopping rivals from signing the world champion when his current deal ends this year.
Alaphilippe is one of the biggest riders in the sport after his long spell in the yellow jersey at the 2019 Tour de France, his 2020 world title, and love for aggressive racing.
Rival teams are well aware that Alaphilippe's contract ends this year. AG2R Citroën manager Vincent Lavenu has already admitted he would be interested in signing him for 2022, with most major teams likely to consider him for the future.
However, Lefevere has cleverly protected his chances of keeping Alaphilippe on board after 2021 by inserting a special 'market price' clause in his current contract. If Lefevere's team continues in 2022 and can match an offer from another team, then Alaphilippe is obliged to stay.
Lefevere revealed he has similar options with Remco Evenepoel, Yves Lampaert and talented young Belgian Mauri Vansevenant.
"There’s a contract until 2024. It is better to say: there is an option. If the team stops, he cannot stay. And if tomorrow Ineos comes with 10 million euros, then I have to say ‘ciao’. But as long as the team remains, he stays with us," Lefevere revealed during the Sporza De Tribune podcast.
"There is the option where we as a team have the right of first refusal. I can put the same on the table and he has to stay."
Deceuninck-QuickStep’s solid team structure and consistent success help convince riders to stay on board even if they receive bigger offers from other teams. Lefevere’s biggest task is securing enough sponsorship to cover his significant rider salaries.
Most of his rider contracts end this year, in line with the end of the three-year sponsorship by Belgian window maker Deceuninck.
"Now it's for me to work," Lefevere said, knowing he has to again secure the team’s future, this time during the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects it has had on sports sponsorship.
"There is an option for two extra years and they (Deceuninck) have until March to decide. I don't want to be in the situation like NTT last year or like us three years ago when we didn't have anything in August," Lefevere revealed.
"If sponsors have not yet understood the fantastic return on investment we bring... I only read good news about Deceuninck in [Belgian business newspaper] De Tijd.
"Specialized wants to go further, Lidl wants to go further, QuickStep wants to go further. But between wanting to continue and seeing something on paper, there is another floor."
Tour de la Provence debut confirmed
Deceuninck-QuickStep confirmed on Tuesday that Alaphilippe will make his 2021 season debut at the Tour de la Provence in the south of France between February 11-14, before making his debut at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium and then targeting the other spring Classics.
"Winning in Imola was the best moment of last year for me and getting to wear the rainbow jersey for 12 months gives me huge pride," said the world champion.
"I can’t wait to show it in as many races as possible this season. I’m still recovering after my injury at last November’s Ronde van Vlaanderen, but I have made some important steps since then and I am confident it will be better in the coming weeks.
"I am excited about racing for the first time this season in France, it should be a nice experience. I took part in the Tour de la Provence a few years ago and I am glad to be back. I like the parcours, but I will go there without any specific goals. The most important thing will be to rebuild the shape, and hopefully, Provence will help me do just that before my spring appointments when I’ll be aiming for some strong results."
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.