Already known among cycling enthusiasts and talent scouts, Victor Lafay made a name for himself with the wider cycling audience during the last Tour de France. The short Cofidis-Frenchman, who frustrated Wout van Aert in the second stage of 'La Grande Boucle', causing him to angrily hit his handlebars, will be representing the colors of Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale next season after a dramatic transfer saga. According to the slender Lyon-native, this was a very deliberate choice, as he shared with the cycling press who attended the team presentation.
"I'm really excited and curious about this new type of cycling project," he told IDLProCycling.com, among others, referring to the fact that an international sports chain is getting involved in the WorldTour. "Decathlon is becoming the new main sponsor and I suspect we will certainly feel its impact. Initially, just by the new Van Rysel bike alone. We also have a strong roster of riders, so that bodes well. The team's structure was one of the reasons for my move."
Lafay on transfer saga: "I deliberately chose a French team"
There was quite a buzz around Lafay in recent weeks. The 27-year-old rider reportedly turned down an annual salary of 1.5 million euros from his former employer. Cofidis clearly wanted to keep him badly, but to no avail. Rumors then circulated that Lafay would be joining Vincent Lavenu's team for an annual salary of one million euros. Was that the end of the drama? Not quite. The saga even led Cofidis manager Cédric Vasseur and Johan Bruyneel to express their criticism. "Victor's value today is not 1.5 million euros. We should not fall into some kind of madness," said Vasseur, with Bruyneel agreeing.
Regarding the aforementioned 'incident', Lafay did not want to say too much at the BTWIN Village - Decathlon Cycle Lille. "I spoke with several teams about my future last year, even before the Tour de France. Indeed, I found it difficult to make a decision. Having a choice at all is of course a kind of luxury position. I was lucky enough to be able to make the choice myself regarding my sporting future. I deliberately chose this team. There were several foreign options for me, but I definitely preferred the French cycling culture within this team. It was the best choice I could make," he responded.
Continue reading more below the photo!
Lafay eager to shine in the Tour de France, Olympic Games and Ardennes classics
Alright, let's look forward to 2024 and the years that follow. What does Lafay hope to achieve? "I'm curious about how next year will go, especially in terms of our team's development. Initially, we might need to find our maximum performance curve, but I'm confident that it will all work out. Looking at our selection, we should be able to compete for good results in practically every race," he begins, praising the team's roster and staff.
"Hopefully, I can continue to develop strongly like I have in past seasons, as that's a major source of enjoyment," he then turns to his personal goals. "I'm confident that I can achieve this with this team. Continuously improving is a process that really appeals to me. First and foremost, I want to do better than in 2023. Increasing my victory tally is therefore important. There are many races I'd like to win that also really suit my characteristics. I'm thinking of races like Flèche Wallonne or Liège-Bastogne-Liège. It will be tough to win against guys like Tadej Pogacar and Remco Evenepoel, but dreaming is always allowed and possible."
On July 2, 2023, Lafay made himself a well-known name in the cycling peloton with his performance in San Sebastián. It's expected that he will participate in 'La Grande Boucle' again in 2024. "The Tour de France will normally be a major goal for me," he confirms. "There are many possibilities there, although chasing stage victories seems most likely. I want to have a good year overall, hopefully with some positive highlights. The Olympic Games are being held in France. As a Frenchman, I must also make this unique opportunity a goal."