PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefvre, who doubles up as president of the Association of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP), has been speaking about the immediate future of the sport in the midst of the crisis involving the ProTour and about his own team's prospects with world champion Tom Boonen surrounded by a raft of new signings.
Talking to La Dernire Heure at Quick Step-Innergetic's launch in Kortrijk on Tuesday, Lefvre explained that the ProTour teams were intending to become more organised in order to bring more influence to bear on the future of the sport. "We are all on the same wavelength. We're creating a group that's a bit like the G14 which represents the main European football clubs," said Lefvre.
The first step in this process was last week's letter sent to the organisers of the three major tours criticising their attempt to set up an alternative competition to the ProTour. "But it mustn't be thought that we are with the UCI against [major tour organisers] ASO, RCS and Unipublic. We also sent another letter to the UCI. They must be aware of their responsibilities and respect the rules," he said, adding: "ASO and RCS have sent us letters in which they asked us to confirm our participation in Paris-Nice and Tirreno, but we have automatically qualified for these races according to the rules."
The Belgian team boss said the principal goal for the teams was to getting all parties singing from the same hymn sheet again. "We have had enough of watching this conflict as if it were a tennis match, with each side playing with its own balls and the rest of us looking on like spectators. If each side leaves its ego in the changing rooms they can get back around the table. We don't want things to be changed. We see the ProTour as good and necessary.
"There are things that need to be changed, but not before 2009 [when current contracts end]. They are playing with the future of cycling, and we want a more attractive and more spectacular sport where the benefits are more evenly spread around all parties. I don't want to talk about a boycott but I don't want us to be held with a knife to our throats any longer. The fans come to the races to see the riders, not the organisers or the administrators."
After expressing sentiments which no doubt many fans would wholeheartedly agree with, Lefvre went on to discuss his team, which will be even more focused around world champion Boonen, and has seen the departures of such notables as Michael Rogers, Patrik Sinkewitz and Luca Paolini.
"Our team isn't just Tom Boonen," he insisted. "I had to make some choices with the budget. Without wanting to devalue Rogers, Sinkewitz or Paolini, I had to boost Boonen's salary and keep Bettini, Nuyens and Pozzato. These are the real stars of the team, the riders the fans love."
As well as seeing his salary boosted, Boonen should also benefit from increased support on the road, with riders such as Steven de Jongh, Kevin van Impe and Mauro Tosatto brought in to work in the world champion's lead-out train. "We all know about the success Petacchi's train had and we want to imitate that. To beat him, we have been looking to derail him by taking away one of his most important props. The talk is always about Velo or Ongarato, the last riders to set up Petacchi, but Tosatto had a fundamental role in that train, you will soon realise that," Lefvre said.
He also mentioned the arrival after the finish of this year's Giro of Venezuelan Jos Rujano. "He's a bet for the future. When I saw how much time he lost on the flat stages or in riding to win the mountains classification."
As for Boonen, he is playing down talking of any curse of the rainbow jersey, saying he believes the preparation he has done over the winter should set him up nicely for the coming season. "I am going to let you in on a secret: the rainbow jersey has not changed my life at all compared to last year," he said.
He also mentioned that he was planning to work on eradicating some of the mistakes he continues to make in races, which could make him even more consistent than he is already - a thought to make his rivals quake more than ever.
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM