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Lefevere: I always succeed in getting the best riders

Patrick Lefevere (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
Patrick Lefevere at the Deceuninck-QuickStep team presentation in early 2019 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Patrick Lefevere once again won the best manager of the year award at Belgium's Kristallen Fiets ceremony, marking the third year in a row the Deceuninck-QuickStep boss has won the honour.

The award, which went with the team winning best team for the eighth year in a row and Remco Evenepoel taking the best rider honour, came after Deceuninck-QuickStep once again topped the UCI World Rankings.

"Again [it was with] a lot of quality. It's much more important to me than quantity," Lefevere told Het Laatste Nieuws at the awards gala, going on to list the biggest wins his team had taken in 2019.

"Omloop, Kuurne, Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo, E3 Harelbeke, Scheldeprijs, Paris-Roubaix, La Flèche Wallonne, Clásica San Sebastián, three Tour de France stages and five at the Vuelta, a number of stages in other WorldTour races..."

With 68 wins through the year, the team's 2019 tally didn't quite match up to the previous year's total of 75, but Lefevere was happy nonetheless.

"You do not hear me complain. Sure it would have been nice, a new record. That countdown alone: 'three more, two more, one more.' But it was certainly not our initial goal."

Developing new riders is an art

Deceuninck-QuickStep's success comes despite losing star riders year on year, but Lefevere always manages to find ready replacements, often riders developed by the team.

This winter will see Paris-Roubaix champion Philippe Gilbert, European road race champion Elia Viviani and GC rider Enric Mas move on, while Dan Martin, Marcel Kittel, Matteo Trentin, Niki Terpstra and Fernando Gaviria were the biggest names to leave in 2017 and 2018.

"I'm especially proud that I always succeed in getting the best people around me," Lefevere told Sporza. "This is an art. Sometimes I have to let go of very good riders – such as Philippe Gilbert – for budgetary reasons, but I always succeed in finding replacements that don't disappoint.

"Of course, we have a lot of ambition again. For the umpteenth year in a row we were the best team in the world and the most winning team. I'm quite proud of that. Some new leaders will get a chance – the ball is in their court."

Lefevere also hinted that he is considering retirement, with the 64-year-old eligible to do so when he turns 65 next January. He'll stay on though, he says, at least for a few more years.

"I could have retired in January 2019. I refused," he told Het Laatste Nieuws.

"I have a contract that ends in December 2021, with a few more options. It will not be one person who will succeed me – it's a job for two or three people. I've read that Tom Boonen is interested. He could, with his flair and charisma.

"I absolutely want to avoid them saying 'is that old one here again?' I don't want to get in the way. I do see a [future] role as chairman of the board of directors. Then I would give advice but no longer feel the daily obligation to go to the races.

"Yes, I will finally get something back from the state for which I worked all my life," he told Sporza on the prospect of retirement and a pension.

"But in reality, not much will change. I will continue – it keeps me young. Many people think I'm younger, but maybe they just want to charm me."