A blog on the Belgian National newspaper “Het Nieuwsblad” from Quickstep boss Patrick Lefevere caught my eyes this morning, after reading it I decided to translate it and share with you his views of the current situation in world cycling…Patrick has always had controversial views, some I didn’ like, some I love, but without him, the world of pro-cycling would be poorer too, but make your own mind up with this very frank blog of Patrick (Feature photo courtesy of https://www.nieuwsblad.be/)
Again it has not been a good week for my mental balance. It started last Friday with the press conference of the National Security Council and it has not gotten better afterwards. I read that Senegal has meanwhile tested its entire population on Covid-19, and where are we in Belgium? Not far enough with our tests. Almost nowhere with the masks and tracing, we should not even discuss. I’m annoyed to death. I was 25 years younger, I would commit a coup and become a dictator!! I have been self-employed for more than half my life. I always sat in the driver’s seat and decided which direction it went. Now my fate is in the hands of politicians, experts and virologists. I sit in the back seat and watch the drivers fail to find the right way. That is very difficult for me. I think many entrepreneurs share that frustration. Last week I already talked about the carrot hanging in front of us. It was also that time in the race. The UCI would release the new calendar on Wednesday, but then it will not work. I myself no longer sit at the table in those discussions – I’ve done that long enough – but I can get a pretty good idea of how those conversations go and where they get stuck again and again.
I have long been chairman of the AIGCP, the association of cycling teams, and I have been part of the battle. Conversations about the evergreens of the race: starting fees, TV fees, calendar. I learned from our former director Bessel Kok that every meeting that lasts longer than two hours is worthless, but they still think in terms of the course: the longer the better.I regularly sat in a conference room in Italy or Switzerland from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Stretching and filming time was often a deliberate tactic, but I am not a piccolo more who has to release quickly. My regular table mates were Alain Rumpf from UCI and Patrice Clerc and Gilbert Ysern from ASO. If we ever agreed on something, you could expect a phone the next day. Rumpf to say that UCI chairman Hein Verbruggen did not agree anyway. And then Clerc who came to report that the Amaury family had blown him back. Because of that misery, I stopped as a frontman. I spoke to all teams, stood on the barricades with the Kalashnikov, but when I looked back, all my supporters started walking. In conflict situations, my big mouth is sometimes misused. Patrick Lefevere has to say it first. It was also this year in Paris-Nice. Teams couldn’t decide whether to race because of the corona threat or not. Everyone tended to quit, but just when the Flight to Egypt was about to start I said Deceuninck – Quick-Step remained. Because it might be the last race in a very long time. Ultimately, only Bahrain-Merida left.
It may not be a nice message the day after May 1, but not much remains of the socialist conviction that I still had as AIGCP chairman. Do all teams have the same starting money? Little Cofidis as much as we are? That is the kind of solidarity that I really cannot afford in this crisis. I have committed myself again with Velon, but what does it all lead to? Opposition by everything and everyone. And this is really not the time to wage that war. I fought politically. All sympathy for Renaat Schotte, but he is wrong when he says that this is the time to reform cycling. As teams, we don’t have a leg to stand on. There are many who keep up appearances, but everywhere the water is on the lips. I’m not going to fight against ASO now, I will be very happy if we could drive the Tour anyway. And if they want seven riders per team, it will be seven. If we start playing war now, next year no ten teams will remain in the World Tour.
Well, is he right or wrong…we soon find out…one thing is for sure…some UCI pro teams will not survive much longer on lockdown, lots of sponsors will have to withdraw their funding or adjust it due to their own finances and income, on the other hand, if it safe lives …regards Dany