A week after likening Sam Bennett’s move to Bora-Hansgrohe to 'women who return home after domestic abuse' Patrick Lefevere has used his latest column in Het Nieuwsblad to issue an apology for the language and comparison that he used.
The Deceuninck-QuickStep team manager stopped short of apologizing for repeatedly questioning Bennett’s mental strength – a topic he has constantly shoehorned into the narrative ever since it became apparent that Bennett was leaving the team, but Lefevere has confirmed that the Irishman requires knee surgery.
Bennett, according to Lefevere, will not race for Deceuninck-QuickStep again this year due to his problems.
“Allow me to come back to my column from last week,” Lefevere wrote on Saturday.
“I'm not too big to admit that I've been thinking over my statements about Sam Bennett. My opinion of him remains the same, but what I wrote about intimate partner violence – in the context of his return to Bora – was not appropriate. Mea culpa.”
“From now on I'll choose my words more carefully in the whole discussion around Bennett and I prefer to remain silent. A recent scan shows he will need knee surgery, with a three to four month rehabilitation period. He will therefore no longer race for our team.”
In last week’s column Lefevere discussed at lengths the mental strength of several of his riders, past and present.
In relation to Bennett he wrote: “And last but not least there is Sam Bennett. For me he’s the pinnacle of mental weakness,” Lefevere remarked.
“Leaving Bora and moaning to everybody about how he was ‘bullied’ and almost broke and depressed. Only to return fourteen months later. It’s the same as women who still return home after domestic abuse."
Bennett had been in line for a Tour de France spot despite picking up the knee injury at the Tour of Belgium. He was named in the team’s provisional squad for the race but just days out from the Grand Depart he was replaced by Mark Cavendish. The British sprinter went on to win four stages and the Green jersey for the second time in his career.
During the Tour de France Lefevere questioned the severity of Bennett’s injury and how he communicated the issued with the team. He even threatened to dock the Irishman wages and bench him from racing – something he cannot technically do within the UCI rules, if Bennett ‘did not behave’.
“I can't prove he doesn't have knee pain, but I'm starting to think more and more that it's more fear of failure than just pain,” Lefevere also told Sporza.
Bennett has not commented on the split with Lefevere at any point and last week he announced that he will return to Bora-Hansgrohe at the end of this season.
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