With the spring cycling season canceled, the main hunting ground of the ‘wolfpack’ has been closed off, and with that, the opportunities for appearance fees and prize monies. Meanwhile, riders and employed staffers still have to be paid. “The corona crisis already cost us 500,000 euros,” Lefevere said of the two-month hiatus from racing.
Several Belgian ProTour teams have already fallen back on state unemployment funding for its employed staffers, and Quick-Step could be the next in line to either queue up for aid or turn to the benefits system.
“We have decided to pay everyone anyway until the end of March,” Lefevere told Het Laatste Nieuws, Wednesday. “We have to look at exactly how long the racing will stop and then make a decision about the coming months. What does this crisis mean financially? Of course, we save in certain areas. Diesel, hotels, … On the other hand, there is hardly any income. It already cost us 500,000 euros.”
If racing does successfully resume in 2020, Lefevere is uncertain how the swathe of already-canceled races will fit into the fall. While the postponement of the Olympic Games theoretically opens up space in the late-season calendar, the Vuelta a España, Giro d’Italia, and monuments will still be elbowing for race dates from August through October.
“I can’t imagine that you can ride the Giro, Tour, Vuelta and the classics in a few months,” he said. “There are still many questions… Do the big rounds have to last another three weeks?”
The 65-year-old is no more optimistic for the possibility of the Tour de France going ahead as planned.
“I see it unlikely,” Lefevere said. “I am an optimist, but I don’t know if they can justify continuing the Tour de France. What about the audience? Who can enter France and who cannot? Are we really going to stuff the hotels with people? I can’t imagine someone waving a magic wand in early July and the corona crisis [is] suddenly resolved. So let us be sensible.”
This weekend, Lefevere spoke of his fears for cycling’s economic model in the absence of racing, seeing the cancelation of the Tour de France as a potential tipping point. At present, the Tour is still scheduled to go ahead as planned, with the UCI and French officials meeting earlier this week to discuss running the event ‘behind closed doors’ in a similar manner to Paris-Nice, which ran several stages without crowds and restricted access to riders.