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Not offering Mark Cavendish a contract was a heartbreaking decision, says Patrick Lefevere

Belgian boss comments on speculation of rifts with Remco Evenepoel and the transfer market.

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Patrick Lefevere has told VeloNews that deciding not to extend Mark Cavendish’s contract at Quick-Step AlphaVinyl was a “heartbreaking decision.”

Cavendish is out of contract at Lefevere’s team and was left off the Tour de France squad at the start of July. He has also been told by Lefevere that he is free to find another team and that he will not be offered a contract extension for 2023.

Cavendish is set to race the Tour of Poland in the next week before taking part in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. It’s unclear where the 37-year-old will race next season, although he has held talks with several squads, including EF Education-EasyPost.

It’s expected that Lefevere will announce the signing of Tim Merlier from Alpecin-Fenix in August with the Belgian sprinter taking Cavendish’s spot. When asked where he thought Cavendish might end up, Lefevere gave a frank response before confirming that the pair hadn’t spoken since Cavendish was left out of the Tour team.

“You’re the journalist, you tell me. The last time I spoke to him was two days before the Tour de France. During the Tour I had no contact. I know he goes to Poland now but that’s all I know. I don’t read that much in the newspaper. I just hear the rumors from radio peloton,” Lefevere told VeloNews.

When asked if he was tempted to give Cavendish just one more year, Lefevere added: “And then one more year, and then one more year. Sometimes you have to stop even when it’s a heartbreaking decision. For me it was a heartbreaking decision but that’s why I’m the boss. When you’re the boss you’re alone at the top and nobody helps you.”

One rider who Lefevere doesn’t have to worry about on the contract front is Remco Evenepoel, with the Belgian tied to the team for the next five years.

There had been rumblings in the Belgian press in recent weeks centering around possible discontent between the rider and the team management due to race schedules. Lefevere dismissed the press reports instantly.

“You know better than I do. Sometimes you need to put dirty lines and you don’t know what to write. There was an old Dutch journalist, a good guy, and he said ‘Patrick, is there some news?’ and I said no. He said ‘well we’re going to make some news’. So that’s what happens sometimes,” he told VeloNews.

“If Remco has a problem with the team then he has a real problem because he signed for five years.”

Evenepoel is set to race the Vuelta a Espana in August alongside Julian Alaphilippe. Lefevere is not putting any pressure on his young leader at this stage.

“At the Vuelta we have no specific ambitions with him and we’ll see where we arrive with him. It’s clear that we’re looking at the field and how it will work but it’s a long race, a hard race, and I think that the level of the competition will be high. You saw that at the Tour. There’s no pressure from our side,” he said.

In the transfer market Lefevere has been busy putting the final touches to his 2023 roster. It’s unclear what will happen with a number of existing QuickStep riders with Dries Devenyns, Iljo Keisse, and Zdeněk Štybar out of contract.

According to Lefevere all three remain without deals at this point. Devenyns will either sign for one more year or retire, Keisse will almost certainly stop, while Štybar’s future on the team looks like it could be coming to an end.

“What can I say? He didn’t race for two years. He was sick, he had COVID, he was injured. It’s difficult to judge with someone who did maybe 50 races in two years. I don’t want to offer a contract for free.”

The team has been linked with a leadout man to become Michael Morkov’s longterm successor. The Dane has one more year left on his current deal. Ramon Sinkeldam and Casper Pedersen have both been linked with moves.

“Casper, I have two or three who want to come. Pedersen, Ramon Sinkeldam, and another one. Nothing is signed yet,” Lefevere told VeloNews.