Deceuninck – Quick-Step contains a bit of magic that the other top teams lack, says retired Classics star Tom Boonen.
The Belgian super team swept the races Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne – dubbed ‘the opening weekend’ in cycling.
Quick-Step usually is a beacon in the Classics through mid-April, and signalled early in 2019 with wins by Zdenek Stybar and Luxembourger Bob Jungels on Saturday and Sunday (March 2 and 3).
The team further secured their peerless ability on the cobbles, as Florian Sénéchal won his first pro race at Le Samyn.
“In that team, there has been a tradition for years,” Boonen told VTM.
“The riders that come in are usually just very proud to be allowed to ride.
“Especially when the Flemish spring Classics are at the door. It starts to tickle at the camp in December, and from then on it is talked about and lived together. I assume that other teams do that too, but in one way or another, there’s magic in the team.”
The team over the years dominated the cobbles from Northern France through Flanders with Niki Terpstra, Boonen, Philippe Gilbert, Nick Nuyens, Stijn Devolder, Johan Museeuw and Andrea Tafi.
Terpstra won the Tour of Flanders in 2018 and Paris-Roubaix in 2014. Boonen himself won three times in Flanders and four times in Paris-Roubaix.
Their success does bring criticism if they do not win. Other teams compete and pull off the wins, but Deceuninck – Quick-Step carries the weight of a cycling-hungry nation.
Both Stybar and Jungels have been allowed to spread their wings after Niki Terpstra left for Direct Energie this winter and Boonen’s retirement in 2017.
Jungels is making the cobbled Classics a priority this spring, after previously focusing only on the Ardennes Classics and Grand Tours.
Yves Lampaert, like Stybar, will have more opportunities now that Terpstra freed some space.
“From the moment someone leaves, there are opportunities for the others,” Boonen continued.
“Those who were satisfied riding in the shadows and occasionally racing for a trophy, suddenly see an opportunity to take a step forward. And they have the capacity, otherwise you do not ride in such a team.
“Men like Stybar are suddenly unblocked. It was a very different Stybar that I saw on Saturday, he was very confident.”
“On Sunday, it was just one big power show, when you saw Bob Jungels fly away. He has a very strong body, he can climb in Liège but also the Flemish slopes.
“He has experienced and the love for the Flemish races. I think we will see him again very often in the future. In the Tour of Flanders? I believe in him, I already had him as a favourite in every race.”