Sean Kelly has suggested that Patrick Lefevere’s negative comments surrounding Sam Bennett’s knee injury and his mental strength are born out of frustration and stem from the sprinter's decision to leave Deceuninck-QuickStep at the end of the season.
Bennett was in line to race the Tour de France and attempt to retain the green jersey he won last year. Patrick Lefevere even confirmed to Cyclingnews last week that the Irishman had recovered from a knee injury and that he would lead the line for Deceuninck-Quickstep in the sprints at the race.
However, on Monday afternoon the Belgian team changed their minds and announced that Bennett had not recovered in time, with Mark Cavendish given Bennett’s spot.
Lefevere then told Sporza: "I can't prove he doesn't have knee pain, but I'm starting to think more and more that it's more fear of failure than just pain."
Kelly does not believe that Bennett was left out of the Tour team due to his departure at the end of the season but the four-time green jersey winner does think that Lefevere’s comments relating to Bennett’s mental toughest and fortitude stem from seeing the Irish sprinter decide to leave the team at the end of the season.
“There are rumours going around that maybe Sam didn’t want to go to the Tour and with the pressure and all that but I don’t agree with any suggestion that goes that way,” Kelly told Cyclingnews from his home in Ireland.
“Coming off the performances he had last year at the Tour, this year he’s proved he can win against the fastest men and when he’s on a good day he can beat anybody. As a bike rider, you want to go to the Tour de France and win stages. Sam wanted to go but injuries come with risks.
“I think that the situation with Patrick… Well, we’ve heard about the negotiations around Sam’s contract for the future and Lefevere has said himself that Sam won’t be a QuickStep rider next year. Patrick is disappointed with that and I think Lefevere is just getting Sam back a bit with that. It’s nothing new from managers when a big rider leaves and they can’t hold onto them. These comments are made to just get a bit of revenge against the rider. It’s nothing new.
"I’ve seen it many times when riders aren’t going to stay with a team and the rider is dropped from the team without explanation. I don’t think Sam is being left out of the Tour because he’s leaving though, I just think he’s saying these negative comments because he’s leaving. Patrick is disappointed, he wants the strongest team and I can see where he’s coming from, but he’s throwing out those comments to get back a bit, I suppose. I think we’ll still see Sam in races later in the year.”
Bennett took to social media to explain his disappointment at missing the Tour France having won two stages and the green jersey last year. This season he has won seven times but the recent injury that ruled him out of the Baloise Belgium Tour and now the Tour de France has ruined his summer. Kelly echoed the feelings Bennett shared on social media when he talked about missing the Tour de France and also explained that the rider’s mental toughness had improved greatly in the last few years.
“Disappointing is the word that I would use. He had the injury and it seemed like it was going in the right direction but unfortunately, it just wasn’t good enough to be able to go to the Tour,” Kelly added.
“I think his mental toughness is much greater now than it was a few years ago. When he was in the Continental team that we had he had some injury problems and he wasn’t as strong mentally as he is now, but he’s shown that he can beat the best guys in the world. Unfortunately, injuries happen and he’s got this one at a very bad moment. I know the feeling. I crashed in the Tour of Switzerland one year and was out for the Tour. It’s a really hard one to swallow but you just have to get over it and then focus on the rest of the season.”
Editor in Chief - Cyclingnews.
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