Sergeant plays down talk of a Belgian super-team
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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Sergeant plays down talk of a Belgian super-team

by VeloNation Press at 6:59 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Quick Step and Omega Pharma Lotto team merger unlikely for now

Tom BoonenOmega Pharma Lotto manager Marc Sergeant appears to have poured cold water on recent suggestions that his team and the Quick Step line-up could consider merging in the future, saying that there would be several disadvantages to the idea.

Creating a Belgian super-team is attractive from a sponsorship point of view, he states, but would also cause problems.

"I have a few remarks on the idea of Patrick," Sergeant told Gazet van Antwerpen, speaking about Quick Step general manager Patrick Lefevre’s suggestion that it could be the way forward for Belgian cycling. "It is not the case that Belgium would suddenly be stronger if there was just one team. And it's not that we are weaker because there are two teams."

"If there was only one team left over, that would also create problem. For who would then be the leader in the Tour of Flanders: Gilbert or Boonen?"

This spring saw a considerable delay before the first big Belgian victory arrived; Boonen was second in Milan San Remo and the Tour of Flanders, then fifth in Paris-Roubaix. Gilbert finally broke that duck on April 18th when he won Flèche Wallonne. It was also his team’s first win of the season.

It can be argued that having a stronger team could lead to a more dominant display in the key events. Lefevere certainly thinks so, going by his comments to the Le Soir newspaper. “[It would be] A great merger,” said the Belgian, “I think that’s the only option that will keep Belgian cycling at the top in the future. All the major players together: Lotto, Quick Step and OmegaPharma.”

“Add Eddy Merckx to that list. It can’t happen without him, he is the key to our sport. That way we can build a team with a budget of 15 million euros; that way we can compete.”

However, while having more strong riders in the same colours would bring advantages, it would also remove one team from the equation and thus affect the rivalry that currently exits. Sergeant argues that this competition is good for the sport, and particularly for cycling in Belgium.

"I understand the idea very well," he said. "But then, the battle between both teams in Belgium is also fun.

"The audience at the side of the road also comes to see the struggle between Quick-Step and Omega Pharma-Lotto. If we take away that fight, we could eventually lose cycling fans."

Sergeant didn’t talk about the smaller riders, but one aspect that must also be factored into deliberations is the effect that one team would have on those, and also on the support staff. With a lineup of 27 riders each plus directeurs sportifs, mechanics, masseurs and others, any move from two teams to one would represent a considerable loss of employment, and put pressure on those concerned to seek work elsewhere.

The Belgian does concede that it could make things more straightforward in terms of backers, though. "But Lefevere also has a point: in Belgium, it is indeed not easy for two teams to find the funds. When Quick-Step stops after 2011, it will not it be easy to find a new sponsor. In the past we were even close to a merger, especially when Quick-Step had not yet emerged [as a backer]."

On the balance of his points, it appears that such a merger is unlikely. However it hasn’t been ruled out altogether, making it possible that the economic situation from 2011 onwards may play a part in determining how things will play out.

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