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Lefevere wants Team Sky and Brailsford to continue but with budget that means he can no longer 'think with his wallet'

Deceuninck-Quick Step boss has sympathy for Brailsford's search for sponsorship although hopes for levelling of playing field

Joe Robinson
9 Jan 2019

Deceuninck-Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere is hoping that Team Sky and opposite number Dave Brailsford find a replacement sponsor to Sky for 2020, although only with a budget that will mean he can no longer 'think with his wallet instead his head'.

Some drew conclusions that the announcement of Sky's withdrawal from cycling could have been met with church bells by the remaining 17 WorldTour teams considering the British team's financial dominance over the last decade.

The TV broadcaster confirmed it would no longer provide sponsorship as of 2020 meaning that the sport's wealthiest team would have to look for a replacement. 

Lefevere, who recently turned 64, is hoping they will continue to be a fixture in pro cycling albeit on a much more equal playing field.

Talking to Cyclist in Calpe at the recent launch of his team ahead of the 2019 season, Lefevere said that 'when the announcement was made, I had journalists contacting me expecting me to be happy about this but it's not true because this kind of thing is never good.

'You wouldn't celebrate Manchester United or Real Madrid disappearing, so it's a sad story. I hope Dave finds money but just £25 million and not £40 million.

'This means he would no longer think with his wallet but instead with his head when buying riders.' 

Team Sky operate on a budget of £36 million a year with a reported 10 riders all on salaries worth more than £1 million per season. To put this in context, the average budget for a WorldTour team is £18 million, which iswasalso the operating cost of Quick-Step in 2018. 

Lefevere believes that a lower budget would mean Brailsford would be forced into similar difficulties faced by the rest of the WorldTour when considering riders' contracts and eventually meant that the 'competition will not be so boring.'

Part of the experienced Belgian's sympathy could stem from the fact he was in a similar position to Brailsford throughout most of 2018. 

Continuing sponsor Quick Step Floors decided to take a step back in its overall role, no longer taking the duty of primary sponsor, leaving a financial gap in the team's budget.  

Eventually, this was filled by Belgian PVC specialists Deceuninck and beer manufacturers Maes although not before the team had to make some sacrifices.

Double Monument winner Niki Terpstra and young Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria were allowed to leave the team in order to reduce the wage bill, which according to Lefevere could have been avoided had he asked for help earlier than he eventually did. 

'I have to put my hand up and say I announced too late that I was looking for new money. If you are the most winning team, people think that everything's ok and you have the budget but this was not true and it made for one the most stressful seasons of my career,' said Lefevere. 

'As soon as I announced, both Maes and Deceuninck approached me but by that point, I had already made the decision to let Niki go. It was then that I realised I had made a mistake.'

Lefevere described Terpstra's departure as particularly 'painful' considering his biggest wins came in his eight-year tenure at the team, although he does realise this is just part of the 'market of cycling where agents now decide the value of a rider.'

The pain is also probably eased by the fact that 12 other riders in the team helped contribute towards the 77 wins of 2018 and that a young raft of new talent - including Vuelta a Espana runner-up Enric Mas, Scheldeprijs winner Fabio Jakobsen and double Junior World Champion Remco Evenepoel - are only just finding their feet in professional racing.