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Patrick Lefevere's company Experza to co-sponsor women's team NXTG

TAVIRA PORTUGAL FEBRUARY 21 Start Patrick Lefevere of Belgium CEO of Deceuninck QuickStep Team of Belgium during the 46th Volta ao Algarve 2020 Stage 3 a 2019Km stage from Faro to Tavira VAlgarve2020 on February 21 2020 in Tavira Portugal Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Patrick Lefevere (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Despite his controversial remarks concerning women's cycling, Patrick Lefevere is making a move into the sport as Experza, a company he co-owns, will co-sponsor NXTG Racing beginning in 2022.

Experza, a temporary employment company that Lefevere and Sylvie Anraed co-founded in 2010, will financially support the team that, in just three seasons, has become one of the most successful women's development programmes in the sport. The team will be renamed NXTG by Experza and has announced a 16-rider roster for 2022.

“As an employment agency, we always want to get the best out of our own employees, but also out of the employees we place with our clients. The approach of the NXTG Racing Team to let young cyclists get the best out of themselves by offering a professional framework therefore fits seamlessly into our philosophy," said Anraed, who is also the manager at Experza.

“Within Experza itself, I also see that employees who have been with us since the beginning, continue to grow through training, but also through dedication and the willingness to learn from mistakes. That is also the goal of NXTG. You can't win every day, but you can learn every day. Furthermore, we are a very sporty company and we look forward to going out and enjoying bike rides with the NXTG riders.”

According to a press release issued on Friday, NXTG by Experza will provide riders with a professional environment to develop as athletes along with a racing calendar that will help them bridge the gap between junior to elite ranks. Cycling offers limited infrastructure for under-23 women, who are between the ages of 19-22, with no Nations Cups for this age group and no under-23 category at the UCI Road World Championships, development opportunities that are available for under-23 men.

NXTG Racing riders that have secured places with Women's WorldTeams next year include Charlotte Kool, who transfers to Team DSM, and Shari Bossuyt who will move to Canyon-SRAM in 2022.

This isn't the first time Lefevere has formed a partnership with a women's team. He helped to re-start the UCI women's team Experza-Footlogix in 2018, which had taken over the former team Sport Vlaanderen. However, the team folded the following year in 2019.

Lefevere, who owns and operates the men's WorldTour team Deceuninck-QuickStep, came under fire when he eschewed the idea of starting a women's team in an interview with members of the media ahead of the UCI Road World Championships in Flanders, Belgium, in September. 

In the interview with Het Laatste Nieuws Sportscast, Lefevere stated that he is "not the welfare" and that he had "no experience, time, money or desire to invest" in women's cycling.

Lefevere's comments were the latest in a series of escalating outbursts in the media throughout the season. In July, he made the extraordinary insensitive claim that Sam Bennett’s return to Bora-Hansgrohe was similar to ‘women who return home after domestic abuse’. He made these highly insensitive comments in his weekly column in Het Nieuwsblad, and he issued an apology in his column following week.

In an interview with CyclingTips, however, Lefevere spoke about his decision to invest in a women's development team next year, instead of building a Women's WorldTeam. In 2022, the number of Women's WorldTeams could increase from nine to 14 with the addition of five new applicants Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad, Jumbo-Visma, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB and Human Powered Health, along with new women's team set to launch next year Uno-X.

“First of all, I want to say that despite common opinion I have nothing against women’s cycling. On the contrary. With Experza and NXTG I start a journey in women’s cycling. Women’s cycling is growing very fast. However, at the moment I feel there are not enough riders of a certain level for all the current WorldTour teams. That’s why I want to do it the other way around and start from the juniors and young riders, giving them an environment to develop. That’s how I got into contact with Natascha Knaven-den Ouden [the founder of NXTG Racing] and we started talking.”

NXGT by Experza aims to become to continue their support of developing female riders on the international racing scene. The team's founder Natascha Knaven-den Ouden said she was pleased to have the support of new co-sponsor Ezperza to help in the team's endeavours. 

“We are very happy that we can continue to grow as a team with Experza by our side. It is a company that has its feet firmly on the ground, but also shows a lot of ambition. At NXTG we are certainly ambitious but also realistic. For example, the step from the juniors at our own NXTG U19 development team to the elite is still huge for the women," Knaven-den Ouden said.

"There are very few who take that step without help. We are proud that Experza will help us give those girls a stage to grow further and make the most of their talents both on and off the bike."

The team also announced their roster to include 16 riders for 2022.

  • Fien Masure (Belgium - 2003)
  • Maureen Arens (Netherlands - 2003)
  • Yuli van der Molen (Netherlands - 2003)
  • Senne Knaven (Belgium - 2003)
  • Ilse Pluimers (Netherlands - 2002)
  • Maud Rijnbeek (Netherlands - 2002)
  • Ally Wollaston (New Zealand - 2001)
  • Eline van Rooijen (Netherlands - 2001)
  • Julia Borgstrøm (Sweden - 2001)
  • Gaia Masetti (Italy - 2001)
  • Amelia Sharpe (Great Britain - 2001)
  • Cassia Boglio (Australia - 2000)
  • Britt Knaven (Belgium - 2000)
  • Amber Aernouts (Belgium - 2000)
  • Mylène de Zoete (Netherlands - 1999)
  • Lone Meertens (Belgium - 1998)

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.