Quick Step and Omega Pharma join forces - but Philippe Gilbert heading elsewhere?

Classics specialist now talking with team via lawyers, Astana and BMC among those after his signature

by Simon_MacMichael   August 1, 2011  

Philippe Gilbert in the Vuelta leader's jersey (copyright Unipublic:Graham Watson)

Quick Step and Omega Pharma have announced that they are to combine forces to create a Belgian superteam that will take to the road for 2012 – but it looks as if they will do so without national champion and world number two, Philippe Gilbert, who has confirmed that communication between himself and his Omega Pharma-Lotto team is now being conducted through their respective lawyers.

It was revealed in April that Omega Pharma and Lotto would be going their separate ways at the end of 2011 having co-sponsored team management company Belgian Cycling Company since 2005.

Lotto, which operates the Belgian state lottery, had disagreed with Omega Pharma over the team’s future direction, preferring to focus on home-grown talent, and has reportedly been looking for a co-sponsor to help back such a project.

In a statement released today, Quick Step confirmed that it had joined forces with Omega Pharma/BCC and that from 1 January it would change its name to Team Omega Pharma-Quick Step, with the pharmaceutical business acting as main sponsor for two years with an option for a further year. Quick Step will be co-sponsor for the next three years, with Patrick Lefevre remaining manager.

The companies thereby resume the relationship they enjoyed in 2003 and 2004, when one of Omega Pharma’s brands, Davitamon, acted as co-sponsor of the team with Quick Step before joining forces with Lotto in 2005.

The team looks almost certain to be without Gilbert, however, winner of races this season including all three Ardennes classics, the Montepaschi Strade Bianche, Stage 1 of the Tour de France and Saturday’s Clasica de San Sebastian.

Speaking to Belgian French-language newspaper Le Soir, Gilbert said: “I regret discovering that Omega Pharma has associated itself with Quick Step through the internet, I would have preferred through respect for my results and the rewards that I bring to my sponsors to have been informed by them personally."

Insisting that “I am the only person who will decide on my next sporting project,” the 29-year-old went on to confirm that “so far, Lotto, BMC, Quick Step, and Astana have made me sporting and financial offers that have attracted my interest.”

While Quick Step is one of the names he mentions, the evident deterioration of his relationship with BCC may help sway Gilbert's decision against the Belgian team's offer.

He added: “I regret not being able to inform my loyal supporters and the press as regards my decision, but you should know that the last official contact with BCC was undertaken through our lawyers acting as intermediaries.”

Gilbert concluded: “I will battle on for these colours that I’m wearing this year right up until the end of the season and also and above all for my fantastic team mates.”
 

9 user comments

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How about HTC-Highroad-Lotto? Greipel could go back there, if Cavendish is indeed Sky-bound, and take Gilbert with him. Of course that would depend on HTC staying on as main sponsors, or Soapy Bob finding a suitably well-heeled replacement, and the riders not being under contract to Omega Pharma past this year, or not being too expensive to buy out. I can't think of a better way to give Greipel the sprint train he wants, Gilbert the classics team he wants, and for Highroad to continue being the "winningest" team in professional cycling (although potential sponsors are probably more interested in GC contenders for next year's Tour.) Presumably, if Lotto wants to stay in the sport, they'll have to remain only a co-sponsor, otherwise they'd risk suffering the same fate as Unibet did, depending on how ASO decides to interpret French anti-gambling advertising laws.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
2nd August 2011 - 8:11

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Why does this all break out in mid-Summer & not the closed season? Just seems daft to have agreed to transfer elsewhere & then continue racing (turning up) in your old team's name when you clearly aren't going to ride against your new affiliation..... Thinking

It doesn't get easier, you just go faster.....maybe

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posted by pward [88 posts]
2nd August 2011 - 8:32

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Hmm - a comination of the Quick Step and Omega Pharma jerseys... Sick

posted by chris75018 [95 posts]
2nd August 2011 - 8:52

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I like the idea of a Belgian superteam - a team with Boonen for the flat classics and Gilbert for the hilly ones would be pretty formidable. But finding out about the team merger on the internet is an obvious way to make Gilbert leave - so presumably they don't want him. Is he just too expensive? It can't be the results...

posted by step-hent [675 posts]
2nd August 2011 - 9:13

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As mentioned in the article, the disagreement between Omega Pharma and Lotto was about the direction the team should go in, with Lotto wanting to support Belgian talent, with Omega Pharma pushing to bring in riders from elsewhere (eg Greipel) so yes, while Omega Pharma-Quick Step may be a Belgian superteam in terms of sponsors, it's unlikely to be so in terms of riders.

That's where Lotto will come in with its new, yet to be revealed project - yes it will need a title sponsor, names previously mentioned in this regard include Belgacom and Adecco.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [8033 posts]
2nd August 2011 - 9:42

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What about Radio Shack ? they have the money and some of their riders are getting a bit long in the tooth ?

Sky ? dont know. He would fit in well with G and Flecha for the classics and also support Wiggins well in the tour etc as proved this year with his performance and what a cracking member of the lead out train for Cav if Cav signs for Sky.

Food for thought me thinks ?

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2712 posts]
2nd August 2011 - 9:48

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RadioShack? Come on, Gilbert hasn't hit 30 yet Wink

Sky - well, assuming they get Cav, that's a big chunk of the salary budget gone right there. Would it leave enough for Gilbert, who like Cav will be right up near the top of the scale, and let them sign any other less heralded names? Thinking

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [8033 posts]
2nd August 2011 - 10:34

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Astana for Gilbert? They need a headline rider, and Kreuziger hasnt shown to be good enough this season to warrant sole leadership. Plus they must have a decent budget going spare, now Vino is out.

Otherwise I'd say BMC - they need to firm up their classics outfit, and with Evans seemingly concentrating on stage racing again after a spell of one day successes starting at the world champs, Gilbert would be a perfect choice to add more victories to the BMC trophy cabinet. IF, having spent a load on Evans, they can afford him...

posted by step-hent [675 posts]
2nd August 2011 - 15:36

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Astana still have to pay Vino - he is still employed by them and gets a wage. Perhaps they might go for Sagan to team up with Kreuziger as they are both Czech - i think !

Now that Murdoch has a few million spare after he didn't get to buy BSKYB, i dont think money will be a problem for Sky ?

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2712 posts]
2nd August 2011 - 15:52

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