Patrick Lefevere has decided that he will be investing in women's cycling after all as his recruitment agency, Experza, joins the development team NXTG Racing as a sponsor for 2022.
This has come as a surprise to many after Lefevere voiced his reasons for not creating a women's version of his men's WorldTour team Deceuninck - Quick-Step earlier this year, saying: "With all due respect, but I'm not a charity either, hey."
But now the outspoken team boss looks to have changed his tune with a new sponsorship deal to develop more fresh talent in the women's side of the sport.
Lefevere told Cycling Tips: "First of all, I want to say that despite common opinion I have nothing against women’s cycling.
“On the contrary, with Experza and NXTG I start a journey in women’s cycling. Women’s cycling is growing very fast. However, at the moment I feel there are not enough riders of a certain level for all the current WorldTour teams. That’s why I want to do it the other way around and start from the juniors and young riders, giving them an environment to develop.
"That’s how I got into contact with Natascha Knaven-den Ouden (NXTG Racing founder) and we started talking."
Experza is a recruitment agency run by Lefevere and his business partner Sylvie Anraed who is the CEO of the company.
NXTG Racing posted to Twitter saying: "We are proud to announce our new partnership with Experza. Our team name for 2022 is 'NXTG by Experza'."
💙 We are proud to announce our new partnership with Experza.Our team name for 2022 is “NXTG by Experza“ .https://t.co/0Fed0Xgt4C pic.twitter.com/FKxXaWvMhiDecember 3, 2021
Lefevere is no stranger to developing young talent with the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Julian Alaphilippe, Enric Mas and Remco Evenepoel all being involved with development teams of his before turning pro.
However, it may take more than this for Lefevere to shake the image he has made for himself that has led people such as former world champion Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) to say: "I really just take everything he says with a pinch of salt. So no, I'm not disappointed by his comments. Actually, I'm pleased that he has no interest in women's cycling because we have no interest in him either."
Lefevere's team has been the most successful in recent years, with his riders sparkling in the Grand Tours, Classics and week-long stage races and he says he wants to head that way with this new project.
"Our sponsors want it and have been asking for an investment by us in women’s cycling for a while but they assumed it was part of our existing budget," he continued.
"That’s not true. We can’t eat away at the quality of the men’s team so we need extra funds for the women’s team. I need time to find it. Luckily the agents in women’s cycling don’t have the same urgency as the men."
Deceuninck recently pulled out of sponsoring Lefevere's team to join rival Belgian squad Alpecin-Fenix with the Deceuninck CEO saying: "Women's cycling is increasing in importance and we cannot ignore that.
"We discussed that, but Patrick is Patrick."
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