Rival teams “dictated the races” to Quick-Step Floors in 2016, but one year later, the Belgian super team sits at the other side of the table.
Quick Step have tightly gripped the run of spring classics so far and claimed a podium in each. In yesterday’s E3 Harelbeke, Philippe Gilbert and Tom Boonen launched a series of attacks that produced the winning move and Gilbert’s eventual second place.
“We are multidimensional, yes, but then Greg won!” team boss Patrick Lefevere told Cycling Weekly.
He stood in the late-afternoon sunshine in Harelbeke. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) just beat his cyclist Philippe Gilbert, but the mood was hardly sour outside Quick Step’s bus.
“We won on Wednesday, second here and third in Milan-San Remo,” Lefevere continued. “Anyway, this is better than last year, when the race was dictated to us by the others. Now, we are taking the race in our hands. We first had the attack of Tom and then Philippe, and it was the good one.”
Gilbert’s winning attack pulled out Van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale). They rode free while Tom Boonen and Matteo Trentin controlled the situation behind.
The story read similarly on Wednesday in Dwars door Vlaanderen. Quick Step’s Yves Lampaert rode away solo in Dwars door Vlaanderen and behind, Gilbert marked the small chase group and took second place for good measure.
In San Remo on Saturday, Julian Alaphilippe escaped with Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to place third. Alaphilippe could force Sagan to work with top sprint favourite Fernando Gaviria in the group behind.
Lefevere had reason to smile in the Harelbeke sun. One year ago, it was quite different. Gilbert still raced with BMC and Boonen struggled to return to top form from a skull fracture.
“Tom was recovering until the last day before Paris-Roubaix last year. He’s going much better than last year,” Lefevere added.
“Gilbert is an offensive rider, so he fits very well in our team. He likes this team. So the team spirit is very good.”
The team also includes several other champions: Matteo Trentin, Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra.
The team will need such options to overcome Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the cobbled monuments Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix over the following two Sundays.
Gilbert rides with Quick Step after several years in BMC Racing. And unlike BMC, Lefevere is putting him to good use in the cobbled classics. BMC, on the other hand, led with Van Avermaet and held back Gilbert, from Wallonia, for the Ardennes Classics.
“He was riding in this area since he was 15, so he knows every corner and every cobble. He has nothing to learn here in Flanders. Then, if you see how much the [Ardennes] classics changed in their parcours, you have to be a podium guy of the Tour de France to compete and win,” Lefevere added.
“He’s 34, he’s clever, you saw that in the sprint. He was one second slower than the others, but he came back pretty strong. I think that if it’s not a really hard race then it’s difficult for him.”
The line-up changes slightly with Ghent-Wevelgem tomorrow and the Three Days of De Panne during the coming week. Lefevere will rely more on Fernando Gaviria and Marcel Kittel. The idea remains the same: a race stranglehold for a Quick Step result.