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Further details have emerged surrounding Ineos Grenadiers’ pursuit of Remco Evenepoel, with VeloNews learning more about team owner Jim Ratcliffe’s desire to recruit a potential Tour de France winner and Ineos arranging an apparent meeting with the rider’s father in Belgium after the Vuelta a España.
VeloNews broke the initial story surrounding Evenepoel’s situation last week with Patrick Lefevere admitting that Ineos boss Dave Brailsford had sent a text to the Belgian team boss stating: “If one day you want to sell him, give me a call.”
The initial story caused a chain reaction of events with Lefevere conducting several interviews in the Belgian media in order to play down the notion of his star rider leaving.
At the same time Evenepoel and his father, who acts as his agent, apparently called the Quick-Step boss in order to quell the speculation. Then on Thursday the Evenepoels and Lefevere posed for a photo during a scheduled dinner in Belgium in order to dismiss rumors of unrest within the camp.
- Ineos explores Evenepoel transfer with Ratcliffe wanting immediate Tour de France success
- Lefevere quells Remco Evenepoel transfer speculation
Throughout the week Ineos refrained from commenting on the story, while Remco’s father denied meeting any representatives from Ineos when he was contacted by VeloNews. He did, however, acknowledge that both Brailsford and his sidekick Rod Ellingworth had sent him messages of congratulations following his son’s recent success, and that Ineos Grenadiers had been long-term admirers of his son.
However, rewind to just after the Vuelta a España and it seems that Ineos was concrete in its pursuit of the rider.
A source close to the team has told VeloNews that on a conference call between senior management and the performance team it was made clear that team owner Ratcliffe was frustrated with the team’s chances of winning next year’s Tour de France.
Ratcliffe has invested millions of his own money since taking over the team in 2019 and has won the Tour de France just once. With Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates dominating the Tour for the last three years, and no ready-made solutions within the Ineos camp likely to challenge for the next few years, Evenepoel became a genuine target.
“He said that he wanted to win the Tour next year,” the source told VeloNews on Saturday evening.
“It’s 100 percent that Remco’s dad met with Rod Ellingworth because Quick-Step definitely hasn’t paid Remco’s bonus.”
The bonus in question relates to the Vuelta a España and not Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which Evenepoel won during the spring.
It’s likely that Evenepoel’s bonus from his grand tour win is tied up in prize money from the race organizer, which can often take weeks or even months to filter through. Evenepoel’s father had already confirmed to VeloNews that the Vuelta bonus was outstanding.
“It’s definite that Quick-Step hasn’t been able to pay what’s owed,” the source added.
“One of the staff on the Ineos call had the phone number of Remco’s father and that’s how the meeting was facilitated. It would have been Rod that went to see the dad in Belgium but Remco’s dad has definitely been down to Monaco to see Ineos before in the past.”
Back in Belgium and the press hasn’t stopped talking about Evenepoel all week.
Hans Vandeweghe, arguably one of Belgium’s most influential sports columnists, wrote in De Morgen on Saturday: “This week, suddenly on VeloNews: Ineos shows interest in Remco Evenepoel. The next day the papers were full of it. That news is correct. What’s more, what the media don’t write as yet because they understandably don’t want to limit their access is that Remco Evenepoel showed interest in Ineos himself and still does. Whatever he would have said on the phone to Lefevere, if it depended on him (and if he didn’t have a long-term contract), he’d already be with Ineos.”
Meanwhile, Lefevere has taken to his weekly column in Het Nieuwsblad in order to lay out his position.
“The alleged interest of Ineos in Remco Evenepoel? A storm in a teacup. Or a fart in a bottle, if you will. It’s unbelievable how much ink has been spilled on this in recent days, but the bottom line is that Remco rides for Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl and will continue to do so for years to come,” the veteran team boss wrote.
Of the dinner he shared with the Evenepoels, Lefevere said: “The whole Ineos issue was on the table for three minutes. Patrick Evenepoel played an open hand: there is interest, in the past there has also been talk without obligations, but a transfer is not an issue. Discussion closed.”