• Patrick Lefevere, team boss of Deceuninck-QuickStep (left), Sam Bennett (right) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The battle between one of the world's best sprinters, Sam Bennett, and his Deceuninck-QuickStep team boss Patrick Lefevere has escalated after the sprinter, who has not raced since May, was named in Ireland's team for this weekend's European Championships road race.
By
SBS Cycling Central

10 Sep - 10:14 AM 

Bennett has been out of competition with a knee injury sustained in training ahead of the Tour de France, withdrawing from the French Grand Tour and being replaced by Mark Cavendish, who took four wins at the race.

Lefevere, despite Cavendish's success, and Bennett's while racing, took a number of shots at the Irish star in his newspaper column with Het Nieuwsblad. He first questioned the nature and severity of Bennett's injury, before then attacking the rider's mental state.

Lefevere was subsequently under siege from many within cycling following the comments which had compared Bennett's actions to ‘women who return home after domestic abuse', with people complaining about the likening of a serious societal problem with the situation, as well as for attacking the Irishman's mental health.

Cavendish takes place of injured Bennett in last-minute Deceuninck swap
Sam Bennett won't get the opportunity to defend the green jersey in this year's Tour de France, as team Deceuninck-QuickStep announced seasoned sprinter Mark Cavendish would take his place in the race.
Bennett claims maiden one-day WorldTour win at Brugge-De Panne
Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) capitalised on another superb leadout from his teammates to claim his fifth victory of the 2021 season.

Lefevere lined up another shot for Bennett in Het Nieuwsblad, after hearing that the 30-year-old will race for his country despite not riding for Decceuninck-QuickStep.

"What he's doing now is playing with my balls in public," Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad. "He has also already sent a letter to the UCI to denounce that I have tackled him in the media. It will not work. I'm going to take him back until the steam comes out of his ears."

Bennett will transfer back to his old team Bora-Hansgrohe for 2022, a move which already attracted Lefevere's ire and drew the domestic violence comparison. He also stated at the time, 'If he [Bennett] behaves himself he will race. If not, then three months less riding and 50 per cent less salary'. 

That threat appears to have been carried through, with Bennett's management informed that his pay would be halved from September, which is provided for under UCI regulations if a rider hasn't ridden in competition for three months. 

"Anyone who knows me knows that I never do that [cut pay]," said Lefevere. "I continued to pay [Fabio] Jakobsen and dozens of other riders in full, despite long injuries.

"But here the rider acts in bad faith. He no longer uploads training files. He doesn't want to be operated on. And he is crying on the phone with our doctor Philip Jansen."

With legal proceedings, or at least a judgment from the UCI likely coming soon, Lefevere believes Bennett is using the European Championships to establish that he was indeed fit and available to race for his trade team and therefore shouldn't be docked his salary.

"I hear from his manager Andrew McQuaid that he will definitely finish the European Championship," said Lefevere. "I'm not so sure about that yet. We have already suggested that we do an exercise test at our Bakala Academy, but he does not go into that. For me it's simple; first prove that you're fit, before you take the place of a teammate.

"Apparently, all the tricks of the trade are at work. A course with four thousand metres of elevation..."

Unlike Lefevere, Bennett has not commented publicly at any stage of the saga.