Deceuninck-QuickStep team boss Patrick Lefevere says that he hopes he can hold on to star rider Julian Alaphilippe when the Frenchman's contract with the Belgian WorldTour team comes to an end after this season.
Lefevere told the Belgian press that the pair have already talked, and that the feeling's mutual that both parties would like to continue to work together, although apparently "not at all costs".
"Julian knows what he means to us, and we also know what we mean to him," Lefevere said on Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad's website, nieuwsblad.be. "But there's a difference between upgrading a contract by tens of thousands of euros versus hundreds of thousands."
Over the years, Lefevere has regularly let his star riders leave for new teams if his team's budget won't stretch to a more expensive new contract. Rather than spend most of his money on one rider – as other teams sometimes do – the Belgian has always been savvy enough to spread the wealth across a large squad of good riders, and then give them the opportunity to develop and break out.
If it then means losing them to a team that's prepared to pay them a higher salary, then Lefevere has often simply let them go, as has happened most recently with 2018 Tour of Flanders winner Niki Terpstra – who left his team of eight years to join Total Direct Energie for 2019 – and sprint sensation Fernando Gaviria, who left QuickStep at the end of last season for UAE Team Emirates.
This season, 26-year-old Alaphilippe's nine victories have included Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche and Flèche Wallonne, while last year he also won Flèche Wallonne, the Clasica San Sebastian and two stages at the Tour de France.
"We had a good conversation at the end of the Classics," Lefevere said. "The only question is whether we can come to an agreement financially. The will to continue working with each other is certainly still there, though.
"I hope I can work it out with Julian, but not at all costs," he continued. "At the moment I'm still working with Tim Declercq and Dries Devenyns, two of my team's workhorses, who, like 15 other riders, are at the end of their contract after this season."