Patrick Lefevere’s Omega Pharma-QuickStep team were one of the most successful squads of 2012. This didn’t stop them being caught up in the USADA case at the tail end of the year, which resulted in the sacking of Levi Leipheimer. Despite the furore that surrounded his decision Lefevere tells Cycling News HD, in an exclusive interview, that he doesn’t regret the decision. He also gives an insight into how one of his newest signings, Mark Cavendish, is settling into the team.
CN HD: I would like to ask you about what happened last year with the USADA case and Levi Leipheimer. Do you have any regrets about asking him to leave?
PL: No, none, because I didn’t know about the situation. Some people said they knew, but then they are a lot smarter than I am. No one told me that he was in this case. One day I saw Johan Bruyneel and he asked me if I’d signed Leipheimer and I said yes. He asked me what I was paying him, I told him the number and he said I’d done a very good deal. He is a very professional rider. For me it was very clear that I have a board above me and 100% of the board said we have to release him. It is very difficult though.
CN HD: Would you have signed him if you’d known he was involved in the case?
PL: No. I don’t believe in signing rider for one year. I always look for the long-term collaboration and not for one year. Before the riders start riding for the team you are already some months in. In the case of USADA I discovered it two days before the Tour de France. You can work as hard as you want for only a few months
CN HD: Did his departure leave the funds to sign Mark Cavendish, because those two things happened quite close together?
PL: I don’t see those things together. The only thing that I can regret today is that I didn’t have the time to find a rider of Levi’s skill on stage races.
CN HD: How has Mark Cavendish been settling into the team?
PL: Very well. I don’t think I tell you a scoop when I say you could see he was very frustrated last year. He seems to be very happy to be with us. I never saw a rider, in the first month, come to me and say that I’m not happy. Normally if you change team then you are happy. I think he is more professional than most people realise. I’m quite optimistic.
• For the full interview with Patrick Lefevere download Issue 37 of Cycling News HD. This week’s issue continues to look at the season ahead with an in-depth look at WorldTour teams Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Lampre-Merida, Katusha and FDJ. With interviews from Katusha’s second leader Denis Menchov and Lampre’s former king of the sprints Alessandro Petacchi. We also take a look at Juan Antonio Flecha’s move to Vacansoleil and round-up the week’s biggest news.
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