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Wheels Roundup: Lefevere Fined, Visma–Lease a Bike Documentary Reveals In-Fighting at Vuelta

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

Not long after criticizing both the lifestyle and the partner of his French rider Julian Alaphilippe, for which Lefevere had to apologize, he has been handed a conditional fine by the UCI for “public comments considered as disparaging towards women.”

UCI punishes Lefevere for insulting women

In a press release published on its website, cycling’s governing body declared, “Mr Lefevere has been requested to make a public statement recognizing the inappropriateness of his statements and apologizing therefor. A fine of CHF 20,000 has also been imposed, suspended on condition that Mr Lefevere issues a public statement and does not commit a similar breach of the UCI Code of Ethics within the next three years.”

The organization did not specify what the remarks were or when they were made. But surely there were several to choose from. A cursory internet search – of about 2 minutes – turned up the following in an October 2023 issue of Velo. First, Lefevere criticized his own rider, Sam Bennett, describing him in his Het Nieuwsblad column as “the pinnacle of mental weakness” and comparing his return to team Bora-Hansgrohe to that of a woman going back to an abusive partner. He did later apologize, but insisted that his opinion of Bennett hadn’t changed.

Not long after that, he was asked on a Het Nieuws Sportscast if he would start a women’s cycling team. “When there are enough good riders in Belgium,” he replied. He then cited Annemiek van Vleuten and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig as good female riders, but failed to mention Lotte Kopecky, who may be the best woman rider in the world. But Lefevere couldn’t leave it at that. He went on to say that he wasn’t very interested in launching a women’s team because, “With all due respect, I’m not the OCMW,” which is a Belgian public charity for the poor.

But who knows, it could just as easily have been something else he said. I’m pretty sure that the fine of 20,000 Swiss francs is of no concern to him. What will sting is having to avoid making an inappropriate comment for three years.

Patrick Lefevere
Not long after criticizing both the lifestyle and the partner of his French rider Julian Alaphilippe, for which Lefevere had to apologize, he has been handed a conditional fine by the UCI for “public comments considered as disparaging towards women.” © Profimedia

Visma documentary reveals serious in-fighting at 2023 Vuelta

A new documentary about Team Visma’s historic 2023, when they became the first team to win all three Grand Tours, reveals that Sepp Kuss’s victory in the Vuelta a España, the last of the year’s Grand Tours, was anything but a joyride. According to those who have seen selected excerpts from All-In: The Trilogy, Kuss’s road to the Vuelta GC title was not quite a consensus decision. In fact, in the trailer available on the team’s website, Kuss is heard to say,  “I still have mixed feelings about everything.”

To refresh your memories, the American super-domestique took over the GC lead on stage 8 and was able to hold it until the race reached the serious mountain stages, beginning with stage 13. Commentators began to speculate if teammates Jonas Vingegaard and  Primož Roglič, who were better climbers than Kuss and very ambitious, would let him keep the race lead or compete for the race victory among themselves. Public opinion and commentators were overwhelmingly supporting Kuss, with some sportscasters suggesting that the two team leaders would be selfish and arrogant if they did not reward the rider who had helped them to many victories.

And that is what happened. Roglič and Vingegaard sacrificed their ambitions and helped Kuss to his first Grand Tour victory. And apparently his last, because the 29-year-old American’s comment in the film about that experience was, “I never want to be a team leader again.” The problem was that the team apparently could not decide on a strategy. “Is this what we agreed?” sports director Grischa Niermann wonders aloud before a ceasefire among the three riders is ordered and everyone finally agrees that Kuss will lead the team in the final stages. “We are not attacking each other anymore,” another sports director, Merijn Zeeman, finally decreed.

This decision came after Spaniard Mikel Landa, then with Bahrain Victorious, now with Soudal–Quick-Step, offered to work as a domestique for Kuss to help him ride against his own teammates. “I’m very grateful to Mikel,” Kuss says in the documentary. “He can drink beer at my expense for the rest of his life.” But all’s well that ends well, and everything ended well for Kuss and the team. But perhaps not for Vingegaard and Roglič. Because the Dane declares in the film, after he won stage 13 on the legendary Tourmalet, “I have been honest. I said I wanted to win. And that meant I would attack.”

All-In: The Trilogy will be available for viewing on Prime Video on March 16 in selected countries. It sounds like fun.