Belgian super-team Quick-Step Floors is barnstorming toward the spring classics with everything at stake, both on and off the bike.
The team lives and dies by cycling’s monuments, and with Tom Boonen set to end his career at Paris-Roubaix, the pressure is on to win something big. Plus, team boss Patrick Lefevere revealed to the Belgian media that the team is under added pressure to shore up its sponsorship to guarantee the team’s survival going into 2018.
“The sponsorship deal we have only covers this season,” Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad. “We have four months to pull together the money to decide the fate of the team.”
Current sponsor Quick-Step Floors has long been a loyal backer of Lefevere’s team, but he said the company needs more time to decide if it wants to continue supporting the team following the retirement of Belgian superstar Boonen. Lefevere said he is focusing on Belgian sponsors first, but will expand his reach across the globe.
“We are in talks with Quick-Step, but they want time, and we do not have time,” he said. “We might not have the riders [if we wait].”
Lefevere called the Tour de France an unofficial deadline for him to secure new sponsorships for 2018, otherwise riders will start accepting offers from other teams to secure their respective futures.
If the behind-the-scenes drama isn’t enough, the team is also under pressure to win a major spring classic. Despite lining up as an annual favorite in just about every cobblestone race, the team hasn’t delivered a major victory since Niki Terpstra won Paris-Roubaix in 2014.
The team sputtered through the opening weekend, with Boonen crashing out of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and not starting Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday due to a bad stomach. Matteo Trentin carried the flag by riding in the winning break to finish fifth Sunday at KBK. Trentin was also tops for the team at Omloop in ninth, 56 seconds back.
Boonen is going all-in for his final charge across the cobbles. He’s hoping to win a record fifth Roubaix in what will be his final race on April 9, and looked to be in fine condition until tumbling this weekend.
Boonen’s last major wins in the classics came in 2012, when he won E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix all in a row. Aside from Boonen, and Niki Terpstra’s 2014 Roubaix victory, the team’s most recent monument winner was Filippo Pozzato, who won Milano-Sanremo 2006. Michal Kwiatkowski also won Amstel Gold Race in 2015 in team colors.
Lefevere also confirmed that Boonen will not make major alterations to his racing schedule that includes Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo ahead of his final rumble across the cobbles. Despite missing most of last weekend’s racing, Boonen will not race Le Samyn on Wednesday, but he might start Dwars door West-Vlaanderen on Sunday.
“There’s no sense in changing his schedule now,” Lefevere said. “The first thing is to let him recover, but he might race Dwars.”
In other Boonen news, the cycling magazine Grinta revealed in an interview with the Belgian star that he is going to work as an ambassador with a Dutch sports car manufacturer Donkervoort. The high-end, custom-made cars retail new at around $150,000.