August 24, 2007 (Quebec City, QC) – Jean-Yves LabontÃ©, who until recently coached the Louis Garneau Crocs senior elite team and is the owner of the Louis Garneau Montreal-to-Quebec City Classic, confirmed a report in Media Matin today that he’ll be parting company with Louis Garneau Sports for 2008. The news is surprising because Labonte, 69, has maintained a relationship with Louis Garneau, a former Olympic cyclist and owner of Louis Garneau Sports, for about 35 years. “Garneau started riding for me when he was 13,” recalled LabontÃ©.
The conflict seems to pivot around the role of the coach and principal sponsor. Garneau is reported to have said that the “old methods” don’t work anymore while LabontÃ© retorted that a sponsor shouldn’t tell a coach what to do. LabontÃ© no longer works as a coach with the senior elite Louis Garneau Crocs team but still maintains his Elicycle-Sports Experts team. At the recent Mardis Cyclistes race on August 21 in Montreal, it appeared that Garneau had assumed the role of coaching the Louis Garneau Crocs team.
Most of the Louis Garneau Croc riders have also signed contracts with Elicycle with the exception of Kleber Ramos da Silva and other foreign cyclists. LabontÃ© claims that he will not hesitate to sign release forms for riders who want to leave Elicycle because, “young athletes should not be punished because of quarrels between adults.” The situation is further complicated by the fact that Garneau’s sons William and Edouard, both ride for Elicycle. Louis Garneau Sports will apparently form its own junior and senior teams (male and female) in 2008.
LabontÃ© suggested that there are many other potential sponsors for the Louis Garneau Montreal-to-Quebec City Classic, mentioning that he has good relationships with local municipalities, Transport Quebec, and the Surete du Quebec (provincial police). “I received 16 telephone calls just this afternoon,” LabontÃ© told Pedal, “So sponsorships are not a problem.” He declined to name any potential sponsors and also assured us that the Classique Chlorophylle race in the Quebec City region will go ahead as planned in 2008. LabontÃ© spoke about revealing new sponsors at a press conference expected before the end of September.
“I don’t want to put down Louis Garneau,” said LabontÃ©, “but this is like a divorce. It no longer makes sense for us to be together. I’ve been considering this since June and things were tense after the Louis Garneau Montreal-Quebec City Classic on August 19.”
LabontÃ© raced from 1954 to 1968 and began organizing teams in 1970. He claims to have discovered David Veilleux (Jittery Joes). Currently LabontÃ© works as a volunteer with bike clubs and cycling events and also stages Quebec City’s “Salon du Velo” bike show.
Garneau was unavailable for comment.