Patrick Lefevere has stepped up his hunt to sign Philippe Gilbert, telling Cyclingnews that his Quick Step team has the finances to compete for the Belgian rider’s signature. The experienced team manager is also hopeful of agreeing a new contract with Tom Boonen and is convinced that the two biggest stars in Belgian cycling can ride together.
Gilbert’s contract with Omega Pharma-Lotto ends this year and under UCI rules he is free to sign a new deal from August 1. Earlier this week his agent ruled out a move to Astana, leaving Quick Step, Lotto, Sky, BMC and Omega Pharma as the likely suitors.
“Everybody is talking to him but there’s a long way to go and I don’t know what his final decision will be. I’ve talked once or twice with him and several times with his agent but it’s only been talks, there hasn’t been a contract offer,” Lefevere told Cyclingnews.
“Journalists are always interested in writing about numbers and writing stupid things about figures and sums. I’ve seen quotes on Gilbert’s salary ranging from 2 million and then I saw he was worth 5 million last week and those figure are thrown around as if they mean nothing. I never talk about numbers but I will say that the need for a three year deal is not a problem for us at all.”
Gilbert and Boonen dream team
With Boonen set to decide his future before the national championships at the end of the month Lefevere could potentially start the 2012 season with both Boonen and Gilbert on his books. He is confident that they can ride on the same team.
“I don’t see why not. I’ve managed top pros all my life,” he said.
“They’d both ride Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders together but other than that there’s not much cross over for the Classics. If you have a Belgian team and you have those two guys it’s quite exciting.”
Lefevere has gone so far as to talk to Boonen about the possibility of signing Gilbert, who has made noises about wanting to stay with a Belgian team.
“I’ve talked to Tom about possibly signing him and he doesn’t see it as a problem. I think good riders have a lot of respect for each other,” Lefevere said.
“I don’t have any doubts about whether we can compete with other teams for a rider like Gilbert. It’s not just about money though. There’s more involved that just money in a contract.”
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