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Patrick Lefevere: I’ve heard the excuses, riders are racing for their contracts now

'Contract negotiation is about business. You cannot explain a season without results with two punctures and a badly timed crash,' says team boss.

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After a disappointing spring campaign that has failed to see the majority of his classics stars reach their potential or their previous levels, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl boss Patrick Lefevere has hinted that negotiations for several of his out of contract riders could be affected if they fail to rescue the campaign with a result in Paris-Roubaix.

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl has been ravaged by illness this spring with almost all of their riders taken out at some point. The Belgian team has been outclassed and outridden by Alpecin Fenix, Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers at almost every turn, and in his weekly column for Het Nieuwsbladthe Belgian team boss spelt out the situation in no uncertain terms.

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“An open door: for our spring riders, Paris-Roubaix is ​​the last chance. Everything that has not worked out in recent weeks, Asgreen, Sénéchal, Yves Lampaert and Zdenek Štybar can rectify on Sunday. Certainly for the latter two, there is a lot at stake, because they will be at the end of their contract after this season,” Lefevere wrote.

“There have been extenuating circumstances for everyone in recent weeks: half the peloton was infected on the return flight from the Saudi Tour and our team was seriously affected. But in the meantime everyone is fit at the start and then the excuses for the classic spring have also been used up. That is not a threatening language, not a warning, not a thundering speech as I supposedly gave after the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.”

“I’m not saying anything that the riders themselves don’t know: we do professional sport and what’s on the bottom right of the payslip is directly linked to performance. I appreciate all my riders, admire what they do for their profession, but contract negotiation is about business. You cannot explain a season without results with a crash, two punctures and a badly timed crash.”

Lampaert told VeloNews earlier this spring that his intention was to remain at Lefevere’s team for the coming years, and the team boss is no stranger to using the media to set out his position in the transfer market. Classics riders tend to open talks via their agents right after Paris-Roubaix, when their market value is typically at its highest, but that dynamic might change with Stybar and Lampaert likely to wait until later in the year in a bid to strengthen their positions.

Lefevere’s criticism wasn’t just reserved for his cobbled classics stars, with world champion Julian Alaphilippe also in the firing line after lukewarm performance from the Frenchman and the rest of the team in Brabantse Pijl.

“If we look purely at the sporting aspect, the Brabantse Pijl was not something to cheer about either,” Lefevere said.

“One Quick Step rider in a group of twenty-five, that is not enough. Davide Ballerini has fallen on the roundabout where they fall every year. Andrea Bagioli was supposed to be good in this period, but was not good. Mauri Vansevenant came through too late.”

“Under normal circumstances, world champion Julian Alaphilippe should always be at the front in the Brabantse Pijl, but apparently he is not good enough at the moment. The best Julian wins not one, but three stages in the Tour of the Basque Country. He loses two sprints that he must never lose. That does not mean that he will not play in the La Fleche Wallonne and Liège. Everyone knows how to prepare for the big appointments: old fashioned, by feel. He races wildly and drops out if he doesn’t feel 100 percent.”

“Fortunately, the season does not end in Liège, but I repeat what I started: the excuses have been used up. Also for the world champion.”

Alaphilippe has a further two years on his existing deal with the team.