• Neil Stephens with Jasper Philipsen at the Santos Tour Down Under. (Getty)Source: Getty
A performance staff shakedown at UAE Team Emirates that saw Australians Neil Stephens and Allan Peiper join the fold appears to have already paid dividends.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
2 Apr 2019 - 9:34 AM 

Alexander Kristoff’s victory at Gent-Wevelgem on the weekend doubled as the squad’s 11th of this season – one shy of its total accrued victories for 2018.

Sports directors Stephens and Peiper, among others, have contributed to an internal shift away from the old Lampre team set-up, which the outfit originally formed from and for a while was considered a relabelled version of its Italian origins.

Kristoff seizes Gent-Wevelgem victory
Alexander Kristoff's plucky attack 41km from the finish inspired the chasers to hunt down he and ultimately the illustrious lead group, the Norwegian backing up to seize his chances in the sprint finale.

Stephens began talking with UAE Team Emirates general manager Joxean Fernandez Matxin before he quit Mitchelton-Scott in September, ending a long tenure over cited philosophical differences.

“I got a phone call in the summer last year, just before the Tour de France, from Fernandez Matxin to say he was involved in an exciting project and was going to try and change the way things happened in team UAE,” Stephens says. “He gave me a brief rundown of what was going to happen and said he wanted to have a bit of new, fresh faces in the directors.”

News of Stephens and Peiper, who was previously at BMC Racing, joining UAE Team Emirates was publicised in November.

“I was looking for a bit of an exciting thing to happen so took that onboard. I quite quickly identified that we needed another director and that the classics were a big area we needed to improve,” continues Stephens, who recommended Peiper.

“The bonus of that is that his organisational skills are really good. I knew that was the case but having worked with him now for a couple of months I realise that his organisational skills are far better than what I even imagined.

“He’s got some really great ideas and is really clear about where he wants to go.”

The pair on the surface appear to have distinctly different temperaments but 55-year-old Stephens has warmly welcomed the new alliance

“I think I’ve softened in my approach. As a head director, I have to be more politically correct I suppose with the way I try and get my message across. At the moment it’s a win-win situation, the way we’re working together, and I for one am enjoying it immensely,” says Stephens.

Peiper is set to work throughout the spring classics and Giro d’Italia and then unite with Stephens at the Tour de France in July. UAE Team Emirates is spoilt for choice at the Tour with Kristoff, Fernando Gaviria and Dan Martin all set to compete.