It was a quote that sent shockwaves throughout cycling just before the second stage of the 2021 Giro d’Italia started.
Patrick Lefevere, general manager of the Deceuninck Quick-Step team, confirmed that sprint superstar Sam Bennett, along with Joao Almeida, would leave the outfit.
“He doesn’t want to leave, but I don’t have as much money as certain others,” Lefevere told Dutch outlet Wielerfits.
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Unsurprisingly the news was a hot topic for Sir Bradley Wiggins on the latest episode of his podcast with Eurosport, The Bradley Wiggins Show by Eurosport, as he was joined by Bennett’s compatriot Sean Kelly.
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The question was put to Wiggins by host Graham Willgoss, who mentioned that one of the possibilities mentioned as a Bennett destination is former team Bora-Hansgrohe.
“It didn’t seem like that ended on a particularly good note the last time he left Bora,” Wiggins said.
“Patrick… I don’t know, I don’t really know the ins and outs of it.
“He’s saying Remco [Evenepoel] and Julian Alaphillipe are his highest priorities in terms of financials and you can imagine that with Julian, yes Remco is a young supertalent and one for the future but Sam is the fastest man in the world a the moment, he’s a green jersey winner at the Tour, stage winner at the Tour he’s won stages this year. Just seems strange not to cover your bases,
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“And to come out now, second stage of the Giro and say he’s going to be leaving, it must be a finance thing but it looked like he had found his home and he was happy especially with Cav [Mark Cavendish] there.”
Kelly agreed saying that historically Quick-Step tend not to pay bigger contracts out, they’re more about developing talent.
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“He’s never paid big money, you look back with the sprinters they’ve had,” Kelly said. “They take them on, they’re very successful and then they move on because they get much bigger offers. Reading between the lines I think Sam has much better offers elsewhere.
“Negotiations are always going on before the Tour de France we just don’t hear about them but this is certainly big news with Sam because the way he’s riding this year and last year it’s a major one. It’ll be interesting to see whether he goes back to Bora.
“I’m sure there’s a number of teams interested in Sam’s services, he’s proved this year that he’s the fastest man in the world.”
If Bennett were to return to Bora it could open up the possibility of three-time world champion Peter Sagan going the other way.
Sagan’s contract is due to expire and he said before the Giro that he has choices, despite insisting his focus was purely on racing.
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During the podcast Willgoss asked whether that might come to fruition and Wiggins said while laughing “I don’t think Patrick can afford that!” in reference to Sagan’s contract which is reportedly between €5-7 million a year.
Kelly pointed out that a chunk of Sagan’s salary is compensated by bike manufacturer Specialized and Wiggins did admit that he thought Sagan would do well at Quick-Step and he could “see him coming back to the fore.”
The team had no specific insight on where Bennett might go but agreed that it would be crazy not to take him to the Tour this year. Kelly said he felt that Alaphilippe couldn’t win the Tour this year, adding that next year they might have another potential winner in Evenepoel.
Wiggins agreed saying “I don’t know whether Julian will ever win the Tour.
“Sam should get the backing this year for the green jersey, he proved himself outright.
“Julian’s always going to win stages and light the race up and brin that publicity to the team because of his personality. It’s a tough one, Julian’s world champion and going to be riding at the Tour as world champion.”
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