Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere has told Cyclingnews and other media at the Tour de France that Sam Bennett risks not racing again this season and could potentially have his wages docked if he does not 'behave'.
In the latest public sign of aggression towards the Irishman, Lefevere once more went out of his way to claim that Bennett was weak mentally and he had been disrespected by last year’s green jersey winner.
Bennett was pulled from the Tour de France team on the eve of the race and replaced by Mark Cavendish due to knee injury and is expected to head back to Bora-Hansgrohe at the end of the year.
Asked about the relationship between himself and Bennett at the start of stage 3 of the Tour de France, Lefevere claimed that the Irishman had not been honest about his knee injury and had dodged his calls and messages.
“I’m the boss. No? Clear? I sent him a message. He said he was on the bike, so I supposed he would call me after but he didn’t call me. So it says a lot more about him than me,” Lefevere said.
“I don’t know if you have a boss but I learnt since I was a kid that the guy who pays you is the boss and he deserves respect. He didn’t show me respect. It’s more a pity for him than it is for me. If you fight like a devil and cry like a child because Bora-Hansgrohe treat you wrong and then after nearly 14 months you sign with the team again it says more about him than it does about me. I have balls, he doesn’t.”
When asked by Cyclingnews if Bennett was still part of Lefevere’s plans for the coming months the Belgian seemed to issue a direct threat.
“If he behaves himself he will race. If not, then three months less riding and 50 per cent less salary.”
Once again Lefevere also questioned Bennett’s mental strength, stating that the rider, even when winning major races, still had more doubts and uncertainties in his head than Cavendish.
“The sprint train was for Sam and you can’t change the programme for riders in the last week. That doesn’t work. Everyone has been mentally prepared for months. You can’t say that Mark is less than Sam. He deserves the best leadout.
"He’s different to Sam. First of all Mark’s a lot stronger in the head than Sam. Even when Sam was the fastest he was always doubting about himself. We’ve told Mark that he has nothing to lose. That’s a luxury.
Cavendish has enjoyed a winning return to Lefevere’s team, taking five victories already this year. He’s at the Tour de France for the first time since 2018 and looking to add to his tally of 30 stage wins – some of which were won as part of Lefevere’s squad earlier in the Manxman’s career.
“There are a lot of emotions. Seven, eight months ago he had no team. I picked him up and all these races at the start of the season were cancelled. We brought him to Turkey where nobody wanted to go due to COVID and he wins four stages,” Lefevere said.
"Then Sam Bennett can’t ride in Belgium and Mark wins the last stage. He decision was taken the days before the Tour that Sam couldn’t ride so we called Mark again. He’s like a super-sub.
“If he doesn’t win no one dies but if he wins it will be super. Four year he’s not been here but if wins then we’ll both be on the throne for a few days.”
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