Wheels Roundup: The Lefevere-Alaphilippe Feud Heats Up and Other News

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

Patrick Lefevere, the highly successful general manager of Soudal Quick-Step was never one for diplomacy. But now his critical fusillades targeting his struggling two-time world road race champion Julian Alaphilippe may have caused collateral damage, namely Alaphilippe’s partner, the Tour de France Femmes director Marion Rousse. 

And Rousse is firing back. Lefevere suggested that the French rider’s lapse in form was not due to the horrific accident he suffered in the 2022 Liège-Bastogne-Liège but was down to his relationship with Rousse and their lifestyle.

“Too much partying, too much alcohol,” Lefevere told the Belgian magazine Humo as reported by Cyclingnews. “Julian is seriously under the influence of Marion Rousse. Maybe too much. Julian is a young dog full of energy, you have to let him cross the yard once in a while. And you also have to say: up to here and no further. There is still a bad boy inside him.”

Ouch! Of course, Rousse responded immediately, taking to Instagram where she has 351,000 followers. “Whatever Mr. Lefevere’s feelings towards me, it’s unacceptable to attack our private lives as he is doing,” Rousse wrote on Wednesday. “But no, I don’t drink alcohol, like never. We don’t drink at parties either because with a three-year-old, we prefer to be in form in the morning.

“You won’t succeed either, as you’ve already told me, in preventing me from working with and staying with Julian for the duration of his career. I’m passionate about what I do, and I’ve got lots of plans.

“But I’m telling you, under no circumstances will I allow you to talk about my private life. From now on, please stop talking out of turn and show a little more respect and… class.”

The message received nearly 42,000 likes. This sounds like a feud without end – and may mean that Alaphilippe’s days at Soudal are numbered as he is in the final year of his contract.

Yates abandons UAE Tour with concussion suffered in crash

Tadej Pogačar and his UAE Team Emirates will be breathing a sigh of relief today after learning that the crash that took Adam Yates out of the UAE Tour on Wednesday’s stage 3 caused him to suffer “only” a concussion and he will probably lose no more than a week or two of training. When Yates hit the asphalt with about 30 km to go in the stage, it looked like it could have been worse as both his helmeted head and shoulder struck the ground with real force. It took the 31-year-old Brit a while to remount and he soon caught up with the peloton but shortly after the riders started on the final climb of the stage, Yates got off his bike and was taken away in the team car.

“He doesn’t remember hitting the ground, so our thoughts are with him,” said Yates’s teammate and the UAE Tour’s new overall leader Jay Vine after the finish of the stage. “It’s not the way you want to see one of your teammates leave the bike race.”

A more serious injury that would have cost Yates a substantial loss of training would have been bad news for Pogačar who will again depend on Yates on those Tour de France killer climbs.

Social media mocks Evenepoel after he blames gear issue for loss

Finally, when Remco Evenepoel (Soudal–Quick Step) finished second in the final stage of the Volta ao Algarve on Sunday, he blamed his failure to beat the stage winner, Dani Martinez, on a gearing problem with his bike that forced him to ride the final 20 km on the big chain ring, which meant that he had to work very hard on the stage’s final climb. Climbing on the big ring “killed my legs because I’m a guy that likes to have a high cadence,” he said. “But with the big gear on the whole climb, I felt that my legs were out of energy [in the final sprint]. Which is a pity, because I think I could have won today.”

It didn’t help that he had already been outsprinted by Martinez on a previous summit finish in the race and that the ambitious Belgian is targeting the Tour de France this year, against climbers that are a notch or two better than Martinez. His comments provoked an avalanche of social media criticism that suggests he is not universally admired.

It needs to be said that despite all his troubles, Evenepoel managed to win the race thanks to a typically dominant time trial.