Patrick Lefevere looks to diffuse ‘tense atmosphere’ as he rows back on Julian Alaphilippe criticism

‘I realise that perhaps I should have phrased it differently’ Soudal Quick-Step boss says

Clock18:46, Thursday 22nd February 2024
Patrick Lefevere has walked back his comments which caught the Belgian team manager is a media firestorm this week

© Dario Belingheri / Velo Collection via Getty Images

Patrick Lefevere has walked back his comments which caught the Belgian team manager is a media firestorm this week

Patrick Lefevere made a point of attending the Soudal Quick-Step press conference on the eve of Opening Weekend in an attempt to diffuse the tension and unease following his comments surrounding Julian Alaphilippe’s social and family life.

Alaphilippe was also in attendance at the press conference in Belgium but did not answer questions relating to his team boss's public criticism, with his focus firmly on this weekend’s racing.

Earlier in the week the relationships between both the rider and the Soudal boss hit the headlines after Humo published an interview in which Lefevere suggested that the rider had a previous problem with alcohol and that he was heavily influenced by his partner, Marion Rousse. Rousse is a former rider and the current race director for the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.

In the Humo interview, Lefevere stated: “Too many parties, too much alcohol... Julian is seriously under the influence of Marion Rousse. Maybe too much.”

That sparked outrage with Rousse making a public statement in which she asked Lefevere to “show a little more respect and... class.”

On Friday, at a previously arranged press conference, Lefevere gave a short statement on the matter before later giving an interview to VTM in which he expressed a level of regret over his comments.

"We actually just want to talk about the weekend. The only thing I want to say is that the interview [in Humo, ed] lasted three hours and that the passage about Julian was barely three minutes long. My Dutch may not always be understood properly, but perhaps I have also made a mistake in speaking about this. I talked about something in November 2022 and it is now 2024. But we are here to talk about the weekend and therefore Julian will not answer questions about what happened in the last few days.”

Lefevere went on: “Do I have any regrets? Well, when I see what my words have caused. That was certainly not the intention. The interview lasted three hours and it's not like we had already drunk three bottles of wine. Two or three glasses, no more. I mentioned that I spoke with Julian, his manager Dries Smets and Marion Rousse in November 2022. I said that he had to do better and that he had to work hard and Julian did that too. It was not my intention at all to offend him, but the press jumped on it, his wife then started to react and as a result, it also spread in France. Completely unnecessary, of course. But at the same time, I realize that perhaps I should have phrased it differently.”

Alaphilippe is out of contract at the end of this current season and this is not the first time his boss has used the media to air criticism over the rider’s results and form.

Lefevere also used the press conference to try and draw a line on the matter.

“I insisted on being here because the atmosphere was a bit tense and we couldn't use that," he said. "I can move past all this and I hope Julian can too. Hopefully, he sees it that way too. Tomorrow is a new day and we won't talk about this anymore.”

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