Patrick Lefevere: “Maybe sometimes I have to be quiet”
A perfectly tanned Patrick Lefevere steps into the 20-degree heat of the hotel patio his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team took on to kick off his new season.
The 66-year-old Belgian is followed by a couple of sponsors. Lefevere introduces them to any employee who crosses their path as they chat in the January sun.
“The José Mourinho of cycling,” says Lefevere as sporting director Davide Bramati walks past and greets them.
Hours later, Lefevere greets the media and other sponsors in the boardroom, toasting another successful year in 2021 and speaking to the hope of more wins in 2022. he says his support staff have done everything they can to limit the continued spread of the coronavirus as various people meet and mix in Calpe from all over Europe he cannot say for sure, although he sincerely hopes that no one leaves with a positive test. Patrick Lefevere is not there to give guarantees that he cannot provide.
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While his team was once again the most successful on the WorldTour last year, winning the Monuments and Grand Tour stages galore, 2021 has often been dominated by the war of words that Patrick Lefevere has often waged either in the press or on social networks.
“On Monday in front of my TV, I win all the races I watch. And if I’m in the football stands, I’m the best player in the world. It’s too easy,” he says of what he does to the reviews that often swirl around him.
While admitting that sometimes it would be better for him and everyone else if he just “shuts up”, the Belgian also claims that the quotes are often mistranslated by the non-Flemish press and public, arguing that his comments are sometimes taken out of context and blown away. out of proportion.
“They [the controversies] aren’t pleasant, but maybe sometimes I have to shut up because it’s very clear that Flemish isn’t English,” admits Lefevere.
“But if some people are too lazy to translate what I actually said, they don’t exasperate me. If you look at these people who have zero followers, or 10 or 20, and they attack me like I’m a criminal, they’re hoping I’ll respond because they have 100 followers.
“So at one point I was like ‘stupid asshole, you’re 66, don’t be embarrassed by Twitter, you don’t need Twitter.’ So I stopped, and I didn’t miss it for a second.
Say what you will about Patrick Lefevere, and yes, there’s a lot of potential ammunition out there, but he’s not one to dodge an uncomfortable question.
Now, out of the circus that is Twitter and into the WorldTour amphitheater. As its riders circle around, conduct their own interviews about their hopes and ambitions for the season ahead.
The rider whose coming year holds the most intrigue is a certain Mark Cavendish. Rescued from early retirement by Lefevere last year, the British sprinter provided a return on investment that will rarely be replicated – a Tour de France green jersey and four stages to equal Eddy Merckx’s record.
“In my opinion, it’s one of the best moves I’ve ever made,” Lefevere will self-administer praise when he deserves it.
“You know the story of Mark and me, he left the team for budgetary reasons and then after the misery of his last months in Bahrain, he broke my heart.
“Everyone says you’re lucky [with Cavendish’s comeback] but I don’t think I was. I took the risk, the team immediately accepted it and he worked very hard. And we have seen the result.
What are the chances of him returning to the Tour this summer?
“That’s a very interesting question, everyone asks me that question, especially the press,” Lefevere teases.
“But on the other hand, he wasn’t even in the Tour de Belgique team, not even the Tour de France. Then with the story of Sam Bennett he took his place, he tried his luck, he won, but it is too early and too easy to predict today what will happen.
After Cavendish, Remco Evenepoel’s year is also interesting. The young Belgian is hoping for a normal season after pandemics and serious injuries somewhat marred what was supposed to be a rapid rise to the top of the WorldTour, and Lefevere is confident his star can finally shine the brightest.
“We’ll see what happens, and then you can ask me questions,” concludes Lefevere. “Because it’s the right thing, we don’t have that crystal ball, we don’t see the future. I’m not Madame Soleil.
If cycling has anything close to the late French astrologer (a delightfully dated reference, it must be said), with his multitude of victories each year, knowing when to sign and let certain riders go, then it’s probably Patrick Lefevere .