Patrick Lefevere: we want to grow the foundations of women’s cycling

Patrick Lefevere sets first steps into the world of women's cycling aiming to grow the sport from its foundations up.

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The NXTG Racing Team will join forces with recruitment agency Experza, founded by Sylvie Anraed and her business partner and Deceuninck-Quickstep CEO Patrick Lefevere, to continue as NXTG by Experza in 2022.

Today CyclingTips speaks exclusively with Patrick Lefevere about his new investment in women’s cycling and his vision for the future of the sport.

“First of all, I want to say that despite common opinion I have nothing against women’s cycling,” Lefevere says from his office. “On the contrary. With Experza and NXTG I start a journey in women’s cycling. Women’s cycling is growing very fast. However, at the moment I feel there are not enough riders of a certain level for all the current WorldTour teams. That’s why I want to do it the other way around and start from the juniors and young riders, giving them an environment to develop. That’s how I got into contact with Natascha Knaven-den Ouden [the founder of NXTG Racing] and we started talking.” 

The move could help polish the brash reputation Lefevere has built over the years. Lefevere is not new to developing new talent. In the early 2000s he developed new talent through Mapei with riders like Fabian Cancellara and Filippo Pozzato, with Bodysol-Brustor and more recently though the Klein Constantia development team with riders like Julian Alaphilippe, Rémi Cavagna, Enric Mas or Maximillian Schachmann. 

“I have the experience with guiding young riders to the top. My idea is to start focusing on the young girls and help them work towards a goal. A few months ago, I contacted Natascha to talk about her project. We have to make the pool of quality riders in the women’s peloton bigger. That is how you grow the sport. That’s how you make the sport more sustainable,” Lefevere says.

Charlotte Kool sprints at Drentse 8 van Westerveld 2021

NXTG Racing was founded in 2019 as the only U23 women’s UCI development team after a year as APB junior development team. The team structure also incorporates a junior-women road team and a junior cyclocross team. Lefevere is interested in the development setup and already tried to match sponsors to grow it for 2022 in the past months. 

“I was talking to a sponsor for 2022 but that ended only a few weeks ago. Through Experza, a company I co-founded with Sylvie Anraed and I hold a few stocks in, we found a solution for the sponsorship for 2022. This gives me a season to look around. We are testing the water in women’s cycling, so to say. We are talking with our current partners to see what they can or are willing to invest. Our ambition as Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl is to go in as soon as possible and grow women’s cycling organically from its foundations. We understand the importance of women’s cycling.” 

Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl has long term contracts with all of their suppliers. The goals of the team revolve around the Grand Tour ambitions of Remco Evenepoel and the traditional core of Classics’ riders. This long-term vision matches what Lefevere aims to do in women’s cycling. 

“As the most winning men’s team of the world we would like to become a winning team in women’s cycling as well in the long term. I thought a lot about buying myself into an existing team but it didn’t feel right. That’s why we do it the other way around. I don’t see it short term. We have long-term contracts with all of our current suppliers. We now have to choose the right time to step in but we also have to think about the budget,” Lefevere explains.

“Our sponsors want it and have been asking for an investment by us in women’s cycling for a while but they assumed it was part of our existing budget. That’s not true. We can’t eat away at the quality of the men’s team so we need extra funds for the women’s team. I need time to find it. Luckily the agents in women’s cycling don’t have the same urgency as the men,” he looks forward.

NXTG Racing was invited to the inaugural edition of Paris-Roubaix

The developments in women’s cycling have progressed quickly in recent years with the addition of the UCI Women’s WorldTour that comes with mandatory television broadcasts and a minimum salary. The number of UCI Women’s WorldTour teams in 2022 will be 14.

“I see television as the most important development of women’s cycling but we also need to pay riders properly. There are so many teams and riders now earning a few hundred euros a month. Or not even that. A lot has been done in women’s cycling. Five years ago, it was a secondary sport. It was good that many people were pushing to televise it on the same day as the men. You can see how that works in cyclocross where there is often more suspense than in the men’s race. Paris-Roubaix was fantastic with the TV ratings. The Tour de France engaging in women’s cycling is a huge step too,” Lefevere reflects.

With NXTG by Experza, Lefevere sets a first step into creating a women’s team with ties to Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl. The vision to create the stars of the future is something the Belgian team manager is passionate about. It’s the key to developing the sport towards the future.

“It all starts with the 16–17-year-old girls. We need to convince them to take up cycling. There are many disciplines to choose from. We need to find the talents and convince them to do road cycling. We also need to improve the salaries but I am convinced it has to come from the youth first. At NXTG by Experza the young riders get a taste of competition at a high level. We know they won’t have success every week but we really want to invest in giving them the chance at success in the long-term,” he concludes.

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