Deceuninck-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere has revealed that rival team manager, Ralph Denk of Bora-Hansgrohe, has made an audacious offer to buy out the Belgian team to secure the services of Remco Evenpoel.
Evenepoel is under contract with Deceuninck-QuickStep but Lefevere has confirmed he needs to secure new sponsorship for his team to continue in 2022. Lefevere has an option with Evenepoel, World Champion Julian Alaphilippe and talented young Belgian Mauri Vansevenant for the future but has to match rival offers to keep them under contract.
He has set a deadline of March 31 for his current sponsors to confirm a next cycle of funding but vented his anger about Bora trying to take over his team and so sign Evenepoel.
“Deceuninck-QuickStep is a team of paupers. I didn't know that myself but if I have to believe what my riders can earn elsewhere, then we have a small budget in a world where there are only giants,” Lefevere wrote ironically in his weekly column in Nieuwsblad.
“Almost our entire team is at the end of our contract and the hunting season now seems to have really started. Agents are juggling offers for my riders, offering millions at a time. Ineos salaries are the norm, we are the paupers.”
Team managers rarely reveal details of major business negotiations but Lefevere clearly wanted to expose Denk’s aggressive style and his offer to buy out the whole team.
“The self-proclaimed king of the hunt is Ralph Denk of Bora-Hansgrohe,” Lefevere wrote.
“He sends my riders contract proposals directly, on official team stationery. Is that legal? Maybe just recently but ethics seem to be a thing of the past.
“In January he suddenly contacted me: ‘Patrick, can we see each other in Brussels?’ I didn't understand why but it was apparently important. In the Sheraton Hotel he told his entire life story: from small bicycle repairman to manager of Bora. Somewhere halfway through, I asked: ‘Ralph, it’s all very moving, but why are we here?’ The former small bicycle repairman got to the point: ‘What is your price for us to take over Deceuninck - Quick-Step?’
“He explained that Willi Bruckbauer, the Bora boss, absolutely wanted to bring onboard Remco. The shortest route was apparently to buy the entire team. He was serious, because he also wanted to know what role I still saw myself playing in that.
“As they say: questions are free, so I calmly explained the context. The team is 70 percent owned by Zdenek Bakala, so he has the deciding vote in any takeover. Moreover, it is my ambition to continue with the team myself and I’ve talked about this with my sponsors. The deadline I still have in mind today to get that done is March 31. I did say: 'If I don't succeed, you'll be the first to hear it.'
“It turns out patience is not Mr. Denk's greatest virtue. On February 20. He called to ask if I have considered his proposal. And in the meantime he is working on Plan B with individual contract proposals for Remco and Co.
“Maybe that's all normal in his world. But be warned: 'in my world, I never forget things like this.' I will get my revenge on Denk.”
Contacted by Cyclingnews, Ralph Denk hit back at Lefevere’s accusations, denying that he made some kind of offer to buy the Deceuninck-QuickStep team.
"If Patrick wants to put pressure on his sponsors with such stories, then this can be a strategy. If you tell the untruth or take something out of context, to get some media attention, then it is for sure not gentleman like,” Denk told Cyclingnews.
“It’s true that we talked. I wanted to know how the future of his team looks like and where he is at for 2022 and onwards, and he said not good. Then I asked him what Remco would do if Deceuninck-Quickstep would have to close and he told me about his option on him. He then actually did put that in prospect together with two other riders. To buy the team was never a topic.
"What would a team be worth without any rider or sponsorship agreements? We already have an excellent team with Bora-Hansgrohe, where we follow a long-term strategy.”
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