Deceuninck-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere has said Sam Bennett will race "every race we can line him up in" during the final part of the 2021 season after being obliged to pay the Irish sprinter his full salary.
Bennett was named for Friday’s Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen race in Belgium and is expected to stay in northern Europe for a series of other races before and after the World Championships. However, the tension with Lefevere has not been resolved, while Lefevere has still to reach a deal with Mark Cavendish for 2022.
Bennett has not raced for Deceuninck-QuickStep since early May due to a knee injury that forced him to miss the Tour de France. Tension with Lefevere about the nature of the injury sparked a barrage of public criticism from the team manager and their relationships worsened after it was confirmed Bennett will return to his former Bora-Hansgrohe team in 2022.
Lefevere threatened to cut Bennett’s salary due to a three-month absence from racing during the summer but Bennett rode the European road race championships for Ireland on Sunday, stopping Levefere’s use of the UCI rule.
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Now Lefevere intends to field Bennett wherever he can despite the Irishman appearing to be far from his best.
"From now on he will ride every race in which we can line him up in," Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad and other Belgian media.
“He rode seven kilometres (at the European Championships). Good for him because we couldn't stop that selection for Ireland and so he avoids the UCI rule (on salary reduction) being activated.
“On Sunday he will also participate in Gooikse Pijl, on Tuesday he will start in Vichte plus everything that comes afterwards. He wanted it that way. Now I’m suddenly sorry that the Tour of Guangxi in China has been cancelled.”
When Bennett was named in the Ireland team for the European Championships, Lefevere angrily suggested that he was ‘playing with my balls in public.’
"He has also already sent a letter to the UCI to denounce that I have attacked him in the media. It will not work. I'm going to take him back until the steam comes out of his ears," Lefevere added.
Lefevere criticised Bennett in a series of newspaper columns and interviews, going as far as saying: “It’s the same as women who still return home after domestic abuse."
“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,” Lefevere told Cyclingnews during the Tour de France.
The outspoken team manager is currently at the Okolo Slovenska race in Slovakia but said he was ready to see Bennett in Belgium next week.
Bennett has been selected for the Irish team for the men’s road race in Flanders.
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