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After watching the success of Strade Bianche and the boom of gravel racing in the United States, it seems race organizers all over Europe are intent on adding bit of colorful gravel to their respective races. Gravel has popped up in the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España, and a host of other races.
Lefevere, who runs the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl outfit, said things are close to going overboard.
Speaking to VTM Nieuws in Belgium, Lefevere said he’s now a fan of the Italian classic, but said the decision to include gravel in the recent Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana is a sign of things getting carried away.
“I have to be honest, the first two years I was really against the Strade,” he told VTM Nieuws. “But when I experienced it myself, I noticed how beautiful this race is.
“Maybe Remco would have been dropped anyway due to the distance, but I don’t think it belongs in road racing,” he said of Valenciana. “Riding uphill with a gear of 32-30, that’s mountain biking. As there is only one Paris-Roubaix, there must only be one Strade. Everything else is [contrived].”
Patrick Lefevere confirms Soudal will sponsor his Quick-Step team for five years (2023-2027), perhaps longer than he will stay as the team boss but he’s still thinking about that https://t.co/ADbR4UAmTP (🇳🇱, €)
— the Inner Ring (@inrng) February 23, 2022
Of course, Lefevere might have had reason to complain.
His star pupil Remco Evenepoel got gapped on the gravel at Valenciana in February, just as he did last year at the Giro d’Italia when Giro organizers added gravel to stage 11, a day when Evenepoel tumbled out of range of the pink jersey. On the paved roads of the Volta ao Algarve, Evenepoel carried the day for his first stage race win of 2022.
Lefevere also spoke favorably of Evenepoel’s start to 2022.
“Everyone assumes that Remco has to win everything, but that is not the case,” Lefevere said. “In Valenciana, he met a good [Aleksandr] Vlasov. That’s no ordinary Smurf, is it? Plus Vlasov is 26, Remco 22. In the Algarve, I think he was the strongest, especially in the time trial, and he also raced smart.”