Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere has expressed his dismay at Philippe Gilbert’s decision to sign for BMC for the 2012 season. After a protracted transfer saga, the Belgian champion announced his new team on Friday.
In recent weeks, Gilbert’s options had been narrowed to two teams, BMC and Lefevere’s revamped Quick Step-Omega Pharma outfit.
“I spoke with Gilbert about the classics. Two weeks ago, I met him by chance in Monaco. We had a friendly chat. He told me that he still hadn’t decided anything,” Lefevere told Sporza.
While Lefevere remained hopeful of landing Gilbert in spite of the strong rumours linking him to BMC, negotiations with the rider’s agent, Vincent Wathelet, stalled on Thursday.
“On Thursday, I spoke with Gilbert’s agent,” Lefevere said. “We spoke about conditions, and suddenly, Philippe didn’t want to come, for stupid reasons, including our conflict with the UCI over earpieces. Too stupid for words.
“I’m not completed surprised. Everybody in the peloton knew the rumours about BMC. I feel that Gilbert has led us on.”
Lefevere’s hopes of landing Gilbert appeared to receive a boost in early August, when it was announced that Omega Pharma would merge with his Quick Step squad next season. It was reported that Gilbert was under contract for 2012 with the Belgian Cycling Company (BCC), the holding company for Omega Pharma’s cycling operation.
However, Gilbert’s agent Wathelet contended that his client’s contract was with the soon to be defunct Omega Pharma-Lotto team rather than with BCC. Lefevere said that any possible compensation accruing from Gilbert’s transfer would be a matter for Omega Pharma.
“When Omega Pharma joined us, I received assurance that Gilbert would also be part of the new team. Gilbert had a contract with them, but apparently, he hasn’t respected it,” Lefevere said. “It’s a matter for the management of Omega Pharma. This affair gives me a headache.”
Lefevere remains focused on strengthening his team for next year, however, and confirmed that he is in talks with Tony Martin, whose HTC-Highroad team folds at the end of the season.
“There aren’t that many good riders on the market,” Lefevere said. “We’re negotiating with Tony Martin, and I hope we can conclude things quickly.”
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