Patrick Lefevere has spoken of his fury that Sam Bennett will ride the European Championships road race this weekend.
Bennett, who is leaving Lefevere's Deceuninck - Quick-Step team for Bora-Hansgrohe at the end of this season, hasn't raced at all since early May, when he won two stages and the points jersey at the Volta ao Algarve, due to injury. He missed the Tour de France - where he thrived with two stage wins and the green jersey in 2020 - because of the knee injury, the severity of which was questioned by the team boss.
Lefevere, who has regularly been posting his anger with the Irishman has, yet again, taken to his column in Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab) to voice his thoughts after reportedly beginning the process of halving Bennett's wages, this is allowed if a rider has not raced for three or more months due to illness or injury according to Article 21 of the Joint Agreement (opens in new tab) between the UCI, CPA and AIGCP.
Bennett has not publicly spoken about the issues with the team since relations soured earlier this year.
"Anyone who knows me knows that I never do that [cut pay], but here the rider is acting in bad faith. He no longer uploads training files and he does not want to be operated on," Lefevere said.
The European Championships road race is unsuited to Bennett, with the hilly 179.2km course in the Italian region of Trentino including 12 climbs along the way, leaving Lefevere to question Bennett's motivation for taking a place in the Ireland squad.
"Apparently all the tricks of the trade are at work," Lefevere said. "A course with 4,000 metres of elevation...
"What he's doing now is playing with my balls in public. He has also already sent a letter to the UCI to complain that I have tackled him in the media. It will not work. I'm going to take him back until the steam comes out of his ears,"
It has now been four months since Bennett raced, and Lefevere claims that Bennett has chosen not to work with the team to prove he is fit to race.
"I hear from his manager Andrew McQuaid that he will definitely finish the European Championship," Lefevere said. "I'm not so sure about that yet. We have already suggested that we do an exercise test at our Bakala Academy, but he does not go into that. For me it's simple; first prove that you're fit, before you take the place of a teammate."
Lefevere has constantly slated Bennett in his column, but was forced to apologise after comparing his return to Bora-Hansgrohe to domestic abuse. The Belgian did apologise for the comparison, but did not budge on his opinion of Bennett.
It is very unlikely that Bennett will race again after the European Championships, apart from a possible ride at the World Championships in Flanders, Belgium. His next race in a trade team will likely be in the 2022 season for Bora-Hansgrohe.
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