Patrick Lefevere: I don’t care who wins, as long as they’re wearing our jersey

Soudal Quick-Step boss welcomes Paul Magnier’s debut win in Mallorca and vows that Julian Alaphilippe can return to his best

Clock19:30, Thursday 25th January 2024
Paul Magnier and Luke Lamperti finished first and third in their first races as WorldTour riders

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Paul Magnier and Luke Lamperti finished first and third in their first races as WorldTour riders

The winter was a bruising affair for Patrick Lefevere. The veteran boss had to navigate through a messy on-off merger and then face questions over whether his team had gone backwards but the Soudal Quick-Step manager was certainly enjoying what he saw in Mallorca on Thursday after his riders went first and third in the Trofeo Ses Salines-Felanitx.

Paul Magnier and Luke Lamperti were both making their professional debuts in the race and the Soudal pair made the perfect first impression, with American Lamperti delivering Magnier to the win and then holding on for third. Alberto Dainese (Tudor Pro Cycling) was the only rider to match the pair, finishing second.

“It’s a good win for the early season, absolutely. We only take the best riders and we don’t spend as much as some teams, but we work simply with our scouting and we’ve had long-term contact with Paul Magnier. You can see that he’s a good kid and a good athlete. We have seven young kids this year,” a jubilant Lefevere told GCN on Thursday afternoon.

“It proves that they trained well in Calpe, and it’s always surprising when kids win at their first race, but I saw this morning a photo from Luke with Paul celebrating their first start and then they win. It’s very pleasing.”

Over the winter Lefevere faced questions over the depth of talent on his team after sprinter Fabio Jakobsen and several Classics specialists departed for new teams. Lefevere’s focus has been on supporting Remco Evenepoel’s GC bid at the Tour de France this year but an early season win provided the perfect springboard for the challenges ahead.

“You have the pen in your hands so I leave that to you,” Lefevere replied when asked if his team were written off in the media over the last few months. “But this is our first race in Europe, and I know one thing, and that’s that winning improves motivation and I don’t care who wins, as long as they’re wearing our jersey that’s all that matters.”

Other than Mikel Landa and Gianni Moscon, the majority of Lefevere’s winter signings were up-and-coming riders from the U23 ranks. Lefevere will no doubt afford his new recruits time and space to develop but the signs of success were already there back in training camp in December. The racing in Spain might not be WorldTour level, but winning at any race still counts.

“They have to learn but they’re learning very fast. You can say it’s only Mallorca, but there are a lot of good riders there. I'm not Madame Soleil but we took kids with real talent. Paul comes from mountain biking, so it’s a bit special to win immediately on the road but during the camp, Paul did sprints against Tim Merlier and he beat him two or three times. Okay, it’s only training but they were sprinting really seriously and that was a good sign,” the boss told GCN.

The win in Spain marked the squad’s first victory of the season after a lukewarm showing in Australia. Julian Alaphilippe was on show at the Tour Down Under and had a decent supporting cameo performance, even if he didn’t come away with a victory.

Lefevere believes that the two-time world champion can still discover his best form in the coming months, with the rider set to target the Tour of Flanders and the Giro d’Italia this spring.

“We have one win. Australia at the Tour Down Under was okay, not bad, not great. We saw Julian at the level that we expect from him. He can come back from Australia knowing that he can win. He could have won on Willunga if he had waited a bit more before attacking but he was up there,” he said.

“It’s a big season for him but he promised me that if he had one more winter then he could come back to the level that he’d had before. I’m looking forward to him not having bad luck this year and being at his best at the Tour of Flanders. I still remember the race in 2020, and the incident with the moto. He was the guy who made the break but I’m sure that his talent hasn’t gone.”

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