Never one to mince his words, Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere has heavily criticised the Belgian Cycling Federation and two of his Belgian stars - Stijn Devolder and Wouter Weylandt - after a lacklustre start to the team's Classics campaign.
In an interview with P Magazine titled 'Patrick Lefevere throws bombs', which will appear in Belgium later today, the experienced team manager unleashed his frustration with his riders and the Belgian Cycling Federation, although it was Devolder, Weylandt and Iljo Keisse who received the closest attention.
"It bothers me greatly that I have not even seen him once," Lefevere said of Devolder, who has won the past two editions of the Tour of Flanders. "I don't like riders that peak for a race. Then you put too much pressure on your shoulders.
"After that one [race] the decompression rate is so high that we lose him again for a long time. Riders pay the price for preparing for one race a year," Lefevere added.
And it appears that Weylandt has fallen well out of favour with his manager. "He won Nokere Koerse once, had a [good] ride in the Three Days of West Flanders and one in the Vuelta Espana. But then: nothing, except his mouth. For those riders time is really running out," Lefevere warned.
Tom Boonen was spared from Lefevere's scathing tongue, the golden boy of Belgian cycling "now stronger than before", according to his boss. "He has become calmer in his head. He has finally decided to permanently live in Monaco and [Boonen's girlfriend] Lore has drawn a line under what has gone wrong in recent years," he said.
The Keisse dillemma
Iljo Keisse also came in for the 'Lefevere treatment', the Belgian track rider breaking his collarbone in training for the UCI Track World Championships, having previously chosen to avoid the sprint at Nokere-Koerse for fear of injury. Lefevere is now faced with the possibility of seeking compensation from the Belgian Cycling Federation, having experienced a similar scenario with another former rider, Dominique Cornu, during last year's track worlds.
"I've invested in Iljo Keisse, but the federation demanded he ride the track cycling world championships in Copenhagen. So what does Keisse say after Nokere? 'I dare not sprint for fear that I could fall and be forced to miss the world championships'.
"And what happened in Copenhagen? He broke his collarbone in training! He was actually employed by the federation to ride at that time, but you can guess who will now pay Keisse's wages?"
Lefevere cites the example set by professional football in relation to players sustaining injuries while on national duty. "If I remember correctly, some football clubs have received damages as their players returned from a [international] match injured. Maybe cycling could follow this.
"I paid Dominique Cornu for three months last year without him once being in the picture for Quick Step," he continued. "But when he went to the world championships where he - with the national jersey on - took a bronze medal in the pursuit. What an SMS I got from the union: 'Congratulations!'
"Instead of congratulations, I would have preferred that the federation had paid his wages."
No love for Omega Pharma-Lotto...
Whilst the performance of another Belgian ProTour squad, Omega Pharma-Lotto, is again under the spotlight, Lefevere said that contrary to popular opinion, the team doesn't pay particular attention to beating its countrymen during races. He added that it doesn't hand out any gifts, either.
"I never tell my men: 'Whatever happens, make sure someone from Lotto doesn't win'. Everyone thinks so. But if any one of them is in an escape, we do not automatically chase," said Lefevere.
"I've already seen the opposite. I should watch that I'm not being paranoid, but in Het Nieuwsblad, Boonen was on the Taaienberg. I was correctly posted on the downhill and there were three [riders] on the front of Lotto's chase. Is this coincidence because it was Boonen?
"Boonen rode in the hope that a few more [riders] came. But if you hunt with three men behind, a small group isn't going to ride away, eh? Oh well, I will in any case not be giving gifts," he said.
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