Remco Evenepoel, his father, and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl team manager Patrick Lefevere met for dinner in Belgium on Thursday evening in an attempt to play down reports that Ineos Grenadiers could try to sign the new world champion as their Tour de France leader.
Lefevere posted a photo from the dinner on Instagram, describing the meal at the Michelin-star Sir Kwinten restaurant west of Brussels as “a nice business dinner”.
Lefevere said the dinner talk would be about the transfer reports but also about Evenepoel’s victory celebrations in central Brussels on Sunday, his debut in the rainbow jersey at Binche-Chimay-Binche on Tuesday, and his Grand Tour plans for 2023.
Patrick Evenepoel is Remco’s agent as well as his father, but it is unclear if they talked about boosting his current contract after his Vuelta a España and World Championship victories raised his status in the sport.
Earlier on Thursday, Lefevere used a Flemish euphemism, describing reports of Remco Evenepoel’s transfer to Ineos Grenadiers as a ‘fart in a bottle’.
Lefevere hopes that Evenepoel will respect his current contract that runs until 2026, warning that Ineos Grenadiers would have to offer in excess of 100 million Euros for him to sell Evenepoel because of the impact on his five-year sponsorship deals with Soudal, QuickStep, Specialized and others.
“Everything is for sale in the world but then you have to do the maths,” Lefevere told sporza.
“A five-year contract with all your sponsors. Let’s say 25 million sponsorship deals per year, that’s 125 million. And they’d all claim compensation [for losing Evenepoel]. By the way, a transfer payment does not mean that you give him the same money. There’s still a lot to add.”
Lefevere sparked the reports of Ineos Grenadiers’ interest in Evenepoel by revealing to Velonews that team principal Dave Brailsford had sent him a message after the World Championships saying: “Congratulations, what a champ, and if one day you want to sell him give me a call.”
Velonews also claimed that the billionaire owner of the Ineos petro-chemical company is desperate to win the Tour de France after three years without the yellow jersey. The British team lack a true Tour de France contender as they go through a generational change and Egan Bernal recovers from his life-threatening January crash. When Team Sky were created in 2010, they bought Bradley Wiggins out of his contract with Jonathan Vaughters’ Garmin-Slipstream team and he went on to win the 2012 Tour de France.
Lefevere admitted that he replied to Brailsford’s provocative message by suggesting that if he wanted Evenepoel, Ineos would have to buy the whole QuickStep-AlphaVinyl team.
“You might not get the rider, but maybe the whole team,” Lefevere wrote, with Brailsford responding: “Good idea. I’m going to keep track of that message.”
The Ineos Grenadiers and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl teams have both refused to comment on the matter.
Evenepoel has returned to training since arriving home from Australia, and he’s set to debut the rainbow jersey at Binche-Chimay-Binche on October 4 after being celebrated in Brussels’s main square on Sunday. He is also preparing for his wedding on October 9.
Evenepoel is then expected to attend a QuickStep-AlphaVinyl get-together and then go on his honeymoon before starting his pre-season training in December.