The Belgian manager of Deceuninck-QuickStep suggested that Bennett might not wish to race for the team on the Tour de France as he leaves the team at the end of the year, and now Kelly has made a similar observation about the team.
Kelly believes Lefevere doesn’t want to put the Irishman front and center for a successful Grand Tour event if he doesn’t stay.
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“There are rumors going around that maybe Sam didn’t want to go on the Tour and with the pressure and stuff, but I don’t agree with any suggestion that goes in that direction,” Kelly told Cyclingnews.
“After his performances last year on the Tour he has proven this year that he can win against the fastest men and when he’s having a good day he can beat anyone. As a cyclist, you want to go on the Tour de France and win stages. Sam wanted to go, but injuries come with risk.
“I think the situation with Patrick… well we’ve heard about the negotiations around Sam’s contract for the future and Lefevere himself has said that Sam won’t be a QuickStep rider next year. Patrick is disappointed with this and I think Lefevere is just to bring Sam back a little bit with this. It’s nothing new for managers when a big runner leaves and they can’t hold him back. These comments are made to take some revenge on the runner. This is nothing new.
“I’ve seen it a few times when riders aren’t going to stay with a team and the rider is removed from the team without an explanation. I don’t think Sam is being excluded from the Tour because he is leaving however, I just think he is saying these negative comments because he is leaving. Patrick is disappointed, he wants the strongest team and I can see where he’s coming from, but he throws those comments away to come back a bit I guess. I think we’ll still see Sam in the races later in the year. “
Kelly appeared to credit Bennett’s reasons for missing the Tour, saying a minor injury kept him from training to his full potential.
“Disappointing is the word I would use. He was injured and it seemed to be going in the right direction, but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to be able to go on the Tour, ”Kelly added.
“I think his mental toughness is much greater now than it was a few years ago. When he was in the continental team that we had he had injury issues and he wasn’t as mentally strong as he is now, but he showed he can beat the best guys in the world. Unfortunately injuries do happen and he has this one at a really bad time. I know the feeling. I crashed in the Tour de Suisse for a year and was absent for the Tour. It’s a really hard one to swallow, but you just have to get over it and then focus on the rest of the season.
Mark Cavendish has now replaced Bennett for the event.
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