QuickStep-AlphaVinyl manager Patrick Lefevere has publicly questioned the legitimacy of the knee injury recently suffered by Jumbo-Visma rider Wout van Aert.
In his weekend column for Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, Lefevere suggested the injury was an excuse to miss the Belgian national championships, influenced by his team.
Van Aert revealed on Thursday that he had hurt his knee at a training camp in Tignes ahead of the Tour de France, pulling out of the defence of his national road race title on Sunday.
Lefevere noted that Jumbo-Visma leader Primož Roglič is skipping his own nationals in Slovenia, and insinuated the team didn't want their riders competing ahead of the Tour de France.
"A major absentee on Sunday is of course Wout van Aert, who bumped his knee against his handlebars on an internship in Tignes. How much bad luck can you have?" Lefevere wrote.
"I'm not going to say it didn't happen, but if Jumbo-Visma prefers to keep its leaders away from the championships for the Tour, say so in so many words. Or is it a coincidence that Primoz Roglic is not participating in Slovenia either?"
None of Jumbo-Visma's eight Tour de France riders is riding a national championship this weekend.
Lefevere's weekly column has become a regular outlet for Lefevere to air his opinions, which are always forthright and often controversial.
This one carries a sense of déjà-vu given that 12 months ago he publicly questioned a knee injury of his own rider, Sam Bennett, who ended up missing the Tour and leaving the team at the end of the year. Lefevere suggested the injury was "more fear of failure than just pain" before likening Bennett to a victim of domestic abuse when he moved closer to a switch back to Bora-Hansgrohe, labelling the Irishman "the pinnacle of mental weakness".
In his statement on Thursday, Van Aert said he "would normally never forgo a Belgian championship", adding: "This is the wisest decision because I don't want to jeopardise the Tour."
Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets
After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Get The Leadout Newsletter
The latest race content, interviews, features, reviews and expert buying guides, direct to your inbox!
Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist, and former deputy editor of Cyclingnews, who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.