During the Quick Step team presentation in Kortrijk on Friday, team manager Patrick Lefevere stated that he proposed to integrate the Telenet-Fidea cyclo-cross team into his Quick Step team in order to secure the services of cyclo-cross world champion Zdenek Stybar. "I asked Hanks van Kasteren if we could buy his team, but he didn't agree," Lefevere said on Friday.
The Telenet-Fidea team is currently owned by Dutchman Hans van Kasteren, who is heading for retirement, but title sponsor Telenet is said to be continuing its support only if its top riders including Stybar remain with the team.
"I understand that Hans has a problem with his current sponsors as he can only keep them if he can keep Stybar. I think that if they were be a Continental team under our wing, with some road riders added to the roster, the sponsors wouldn't be unhappy," Lefevere said.
In the past few months there has been an ongoing dispute between Van Kasteren and Stybar, who has been heavily courted by the Quick Step team and who has expressed the desire to test himself as a road cyclist. The contract between Stybar and Telenet-Fidea ends in February 2011 but contains a clause that offers Van Kasteren right of first refusal.
According to Lefevere, Stybar's agent Paul De Geyter considers his client a free agent if Telenet-Fidea cannot offer him a serious road program.
"To make it on the road Stybar has to say no to a lot of start money in cyclo-cross and invest in the road," said Lefevere. "He wants to do that for one or two years to see where he can get. He can always return to cross since he's only 25 years old."
"I can offer Stybar a ride at the Tour de France, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, which is his dreams or the Tour of Austria ... I made the offer a long time ago but he didn't give a concrete response. There are only a few options: either Stybar is free, or Van Kasteren is willing to integrate his team into ours. If not, then there's a legal battle between Hans and Stybar coming up, and that's one which at the moment I'm not willing to be part of," Lefevere said.
Van Kasteren said he received the offer from Lefevere. "It's one of the options, like there are about twenty other options but for now I'm not busy with this. First I'll deal with the rider contracts and then I'll look into the future of the team," Van Kasteren told Het Nieuwsblad.
A few days earlier he stated that Stybar certainly wouldn't be leaving Telenet-Fidea. Van Kasteren said that he used the option to keep Stybar in his team by matching Quick Step's offer of 525,000 euro on December 31.
"When Quick Step made a first offer of 525,000 euro I was willing to match that one. A few days later I received a proposition from Quick Step in which was stated that he could earn 575,000 euro. That was too much for me so I was planning to let him go. Until I gave the mail a second look and didn't find the name of Patrick Lefevere. I sent a mail and a registered letter to ask Quick Step whether they could confirm that the signature on the proposition was from Patrick Lefevere. I've been waiting for an answer for three weeks now," Van Kasteren told P-Magazine.