Patrick Lefevere: ‘Spring classics belong in the spring’

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl boss pushes back on notion of moving such races as Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix to the fall.

Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images

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Not everyone is thrilled about the trial balloon UCI president David Lappartient is floating about possibly shaking up the spring classics calendar.

In an interview with Wielerflits, Lappartient said that key stakeholders are considering moving the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix from their traditional spring dates to something later in the fall.

Patrick Lefevere, the longtime boss at Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, is adamant. Things are just fine the way they are.

“Everyone knows I’m an old-fashioned guy, so I wouldn’t change it,” Lefevere said Thursday. “Maybe the two COVID seasons were a bit special but if he does change things, Lappartient will have to cut the calendar first.”

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The wildly successful “fall” edition of the 2021 Paris-Roubaix, contested in wet and muddy conditions for the first time in two decades, got a few people thinking: maybe some of the major one-day races could fit fine in the fall.

Nothing will happen in the short-term as the race calendar is largely set for the next three seasons, but moving races like the Tour of Flanders or Roubaix to the autumn would mark a major departure from cycling’s traditional ebb and flow of the spring classics, the grand tours, and then the world championships.

Lefevere pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic forced everyone to be flexible, but he said he’s glad Roubaix is back at its traditional place on the calendar, even if this year’s edition is delayed by one week due to the French presidential elections.

“I’m just happy that both races are now back in the spring,” Lefevere said in a Zoom call. “We are used to this, here we train like crazy for the winter. Everyone is always nervous to start the first race. Everyone plans altitude training camps and all teams have been calculating for years how they can best get their riders in shape during certain periods. That requires sacrifices.

“Once the classic period is over, I think the whole peloton will be happy that they don’t have any pressure for a while,” he said. “Mentally, that rest is also welcome. I think everyone is just happy that these two monuments are now back in the spring.”

Lefevere also pointed out that the back half of the calendar is packed up with a lot lesser, but still significant, stage races and one-day classics, which he said would require some major reshuffling if such important races as the two monuments were rescheduled for the fall.

“There are so many races in August, September, and the beginning of October,” he said. “It is almost impossible to ride all of them. There are so many competitions in August, September, and the beginning of October. It is almost impossible to ride all races.”

Lefevere said the majority of riders and teams are happy with the way things are.

“Everyone knows that the season starts more or less in January,” he said. “From Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the first part, then everyone works towards the Tour de France and the third part is beautiful, including the worlds and the Tour of Lombardy.

Flanders Classics responds

Representatives from the Flanders Classics also responded. The Belgian organization runs such races as the Tour of Flanders and has been at the forefront of reviving interest in the spring classics.

“I’ve said before that nothing is written in stone if it is part of a bigger plan to unlock the real potential of cycling. But that would mean a complete reform, not just of the calendar, to set the bar higher in general for all events. But always happy to discuss this with all stakeholders involved,” Flanders Classics CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel told VeloNews.

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