Lefevere: 'I can't blame Niki Terpstra for leaving... I just didn't have the money'

Quick-Step team still searching for a new sponsor for 2019

Niki Terpstra breaks clear at the 2018 Tour of Flanders (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

The Belgian super team Quick-Step Floors "just didn't have the money" to keep star rider Niki Terpstra for the 2019 season.

The Dutchman, winner of this year's Tour of Flanders, announced on Thursday that he would join French team Direct Energie after eight years with Quick-Step Floors.

"It's not that I didn't want to pay him. I just didn't have the money," Quick-Step Floors team boss Patrick Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad.

"He has a new house, two children, a wonderful family. I cannot blame him. Even though it hurts a lot for me."

Lefevere has been on the hunt for a new title sponsor to ease the burden on Quick-Step. Without that money, it becomes difficult to keep all the stars under his roof – which was the case with 34-year-old Terpstra.

Last year, Lefevere made similar shrewed moves by letting Marcel Kittel and Daniel Martin go to other teams. In 2018, he managed just fine. So far, the team counts 54 wins, more than any other team including Sky in second with 36.

Terpstra had been with the Belgian team since 2011, when he transferred from Milram, and could haul in the big wins. He did so in 2014 with Paris-Roubaix and this year, with a 26-kilometre solo move to win Flanders.

"He's seen as an arrogant bastard to some from the outside world, but in the team, Niki was seen as deadly. He created atmosphere, and he motivated the group. This is a big loss," Lefevere said.

"I must say that I have a lot of respect for Niki, because he waited so long for me. But we are now at the 15th of August. If a rider of that calibre waits a long time, he risks falling between the cracks. I do not have the money."

Terpstra also won Le Samyn and E3 Harelbeke this season. With a two-year deal at Direct Energie, Lefevere will put more weight on riders like Philippe Gilbert, Zdenek Stybar, Fernando Gaviria and Yves Lampaert in the cobbled Classics.

"We will try to absorb this with a natural succession," Lefevere said. "The road is now open for Yves Lampaert to take a step up. It is up to Yves to prove that he is ready for the job and that he can also achieve results in the top races."

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