Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere has said he is satisfied with the Belgian team’s cobbled classics campaign, despite their disappointing performance in Paris-Roubaix, where crashes and mechanical problems wrecked their race.
"Before the winter everyone said we weren't the team we once were and that the best riders had left. But I think we did pretty well in the Classics." Lefevere told Cyclingnews at the Brabantse Pijl.
"We had six riders in the front group in Waregem (Dwars door Vlaanderen), I think we were the best team in Gent-Wevelgem and Tom won. In Flanders we were close and I think Terpstra was the strongest rider after Cancellara in E3 Harelbeke. Maybe he wasn't the tactically smartest one but he was strong. It was a pity he crashed in De Panne and broke his collarbone.
"Paris-Roubaix was just crazy. I don't think we've ever had that much bad luck in Paris-Roubaix and there wasn't much we could do about it. Riders flatted at really bad times, Tom had his problems in the [Arenberg] forest and then Chavanel crashed twice. The only rider in the front was Gerald Ciolek but then he flatted too. It was the first time I felt really helpless in a race. We didn't get a result but I couldn't say anything to the riders against so much bad luck."
Lefevere is already thinking about 2012. All the team sponsorship contracts ends this year, as does Tom Boonen’s contract with the team. But after selling a majority share on the team to Czech billionaire Zdenek Bakala, the future of the team is apparently assured for at least the next three years. However, Lefevere is also looking for new sponsors who can help fund new deal with Boonen.
"Tom’s agent has been calling me every day, so I think it’s the start of negotiations season," Lefevere quipped.
"All the sponsor contracts end this year. We’ve got some guarantees from Mr Bakala for the future but we're looking for new sponsors too. First of all I’ll speak to my existing sponsors and confirm if they want to go on. Otherwise I’ll see if we can bring in some new sponsors. I’ve got a board meeting with the new team owner and the sponsors on May 10 which will be important."
Lefevere is confident Boonen will stay with the team for 2012.
"He’s at the end of his contract and so it’s normal that he'll listen to other offers but I don't think he really wants to change teams and we don't really want to lose him," he said.
"We’ll hold negotiations and we hope to reach a deal, otherwise we'll have to see what’s on the market. I’ve made a wish list for the team I’d like next year. But I’m not going to say who is on it; otherwise the prices of the riders will go up."
Boonen will be 31 in October but Lefevere believes he can still be a major contender in the Classics. His next major goal this season will be stage victories and possibly the green jersey at Tour de France and then the world championships in Copenhagen.
"Tom wasn't 100 percent in Milan-San Remo because he was ill in Tirreno-Adriatico but if you look at the other races like Flanders, he was good. He almost caught the break and if you can fight like that in the finale, it means you are capable of winning too," Lefevere pointed out.
"We were surprised that we didn't get invited to the Tour of California and so Tom will probably race again for the first time at the Tour of Belgium. After that he'll do the Tour de France. I know some riders are missing it and focusing on the Vuelta before the worlds but there’s a long time between now and then. Tom was injured for four months last year. That’s a long time and so I think it’s better for him if he rides the Tour de France."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.