Omega Pharma makes Patrick Lefevere ‘a happy man’
MAASTRICHT, Netherlands (VN) — You’ll see him there, in countless squares across Europe in bright mid-mornings, always in the periphery of bike racing.
He has silver hair and looks like he could be going to a work lunch with stockbrokers on the weekend. That’s to say he looks very nice in the periphery of the bike race, at which most men are running around in track suits or Lycra.
This season, it’s a bright, blue, Omega Pharma-Quick Step V-neck sweater, over a collared shirt. He nods his head at an inquiring reporter, but steps back to greet an old friend at the start of the Amstel Gold Race, and speak in Dutch.
But wait around. Because Patrick Lefevere comes back. He’s been a professional in cycling for more than 30 years, from Mapei to Domo-Farm Frites. He is now the CEO of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team.
That doesn’t stop him from popping off from time to time, saying what’s on his mind. Last year around this time, he tweeted that he had not seen “men with balls” in the sprint leadout. Omega won four stages with Mark Cavendish at the Tour later in the year.
On this impossibly nice morning in the Netherlands, Lefevere comes back. He’s smiling, and why not? It was just after Niki Terpstra had won Paris-Roubaix and turned Omega’s classics campaign from one of ruin to one of revere.
“I was a little bit disappointed after Paris-Nice and Tirreno, because we have a little situation. [Michal] Kwiatkowski had the leader’s jersey, lost it last day, we had no points. [Zdenek] Stybar was third in Paris-Nice, lost it last day,” Lefevere said. “So, I said, yeah … taking back 150 points will be very, very difficult. But okay — today we are leading the WorldTour. We have the most victories, and we are running one of the most beautiful classics, so I have to be a happy man.”
Terpstra’s ride at Roubaix is reason enough to smile. With Tom Boonen, a four-time winner, missing that little bit extra it takes to win a monument and time waning on the spring classics, the 29-year-old Dutch rider knocked the favorites on the head with an attack 5km from the velodrome, and held on for a solo win. Of that, Lefevere is proud.
“Of course. Of course. Niki, a few years ago, he could go to Rabobank, to Argos, to other teams. And he chose our team because he knew that he could make some nice progressions. Tom Boonen takes a lot of attention away from his teammates, and they can have the profits of it,” Lefevere said.
And there’s more to smile about in one-day races (and stage races) for the boss. Kwiatkowski, just 23 years old, has proven dynamic and versatile, starting with a brilliant Tour de France showing last season, finishing 11th overall. This season, he won the Volta ao Algarve and two stages, won Strade Bianche, finished second at the Tour of the Basque country, third at La Flèche Wallonne, and fifth at Amstel Gold.
“He was a little bit earlier on condition than we thought for these [Ardennes] races. He was winning already in Mallorca, Algarve. And when a rider is in good shape you cannot say to him: Stop. So we tried after Tirreno to bring him a little bit down, and have him rest. You saw in Algarve he was second in the general classification. I think he likes these kind of races today. Liège, he should perform.”
And with the riders set to clip in and roll away, time gets tight. Asked if his Omega men would get it right come July, Lefevere was succinct.
“I think we will be there when the moment is right. Where we have to be,” he said.
And then he walked off, back into the periphery, but standing out in that bright Omega sweater.