Patrick Lefevere has once again levelled criticism at his departing sprinter Sam Bennett, while also receiving backlash for comments comparing the Irishman to a victim of domestic abuse.
Writing in his regular Het Nieuwsblad column, the Deceuninck - Quick-Step boss speaks on the mental condition of professional athletes, in light of the Olympic Games where American gymnast Simone Biles left Tokyo to focus on her mental health.
"It's human to break under great pressure," Lefevere said. "Also in cycling. We know the story of Johan Museeuw. The week before he became world champion in Lugano, Johan sat in my car for three hours crying on the way home from Tours. Without saying a word, except that he would stop racing. Johan was one of the strongest personalities I have worked with, but everyone has their breaking point. Although I have my doubts about one rider. I don't know what has to happen to unbalance Rigoberto Urán. An atomic bomb may fall next to him, he will still keep smiling. A man without worries."
Lefevere then goes on to talk about his own riders before circling back to Sam Bennett, who is expected to rejoin his old squad Bora-Hansgrohe after leaving for Deceuninck - Quick-Step ahead of the 2020 season, a decision that has irked the Belgian team's boss.
"I never had any unstable people in my team, but I did have some 'special' people. In the current team you have Rémi Cavagna. He is certainly not a nervous type, because his hobby is fishing, but he sometimes suffers from stress. Some say Remco Evenepoel can't ride a bike, but Rémi at the beginning didn't even dare to accept a water bottle or put his hands up when he won. It's all in his head. Tim Declercq is a super smart guy but he cramps up when he can ride for his own success.
"Last but not least, there is Sam Bennett. For me the epitome of mental weakness. Leaving Bora-Hansgrohe and telling everyone that he was bullied there and thus almost depressed and bankrupt, but fourteen months later he simply returns. It's the same as women returning home after domestic violence."
Lefevere's insensitive comments concerning domestic abuse have drawn criticism from people on social media as well as traditional media.
"Characteristically outspoken or not, there is no other way to describe these comments and a man who makes light of women’s domestic abuse, exploits mental health and potentially endangers a rider’s wellbeing as disgraceful. This should be met with sanctions," tweeted journalist Sophie Smith (opens in new tab), while Cycling News (opens in new tab) have implored Lefevere to "read the room" in an opinion piece discussing his comments.
"As CEO of a racing team I also experience pressure, but I don't need mental help. It might surprise you, but I am actually a boring guy: never euphoria, never a dip. I don't feel the need to vent to anyone. Not even at home," Lefevere continued. "After work, I swap my shoes for my savannahs, put on my sweatpants or pyjamas, pour an apéritif and that's it."
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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