HARELBEKE, Belgium (VN) — The party at the Kortrijk base in Belgium died out quickly Friday night for Team Deceuninck-Quick-Step. This Saturday morning, it had to put the E3 BinckBank Classic win behind and think about the next objectives.
On the radar are a series of big WorldTour one-day races and monuments: Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. It cannot risk complacency with these events coming thick and fast. The cobbled classics are the highlight of the Belgian super team’s season.
“We always have to start every race like it’s a brand new race,” Sports Director Rik Van Slycke said off to the side while Zdenek Stybar celebrated the 20th win of the season for the team.
Stybar followed Bob Jungels’ solo attack with a sprint win ahead of his three remaining rivals in Harelbeke. It added to a string of one-day success: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (with Stybar), Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (Jungels), Strade Bianche (with Julian Alaphilippe), and Milano-Sanremo (Alaphilippe).
The wins count, but must quickly be forgotten in the team. As Stybar finished interviews in the small town in West Flanders, team boss Patrick Lefevere and the supporting riders – including Philippe Gilbert and Yves Lampaert – left for Kortrijk to rest. Van Slycke jumped in the last remaining car.
“What’s happened before, we try to forget. Unless we make mistakes, then we try to get lessons out off it,” he said.
“Every race, we start it like it’s a brand new race that we want to win, for that we need tactics. Up until now, we can always put our plan into the race and then it’s OK and we don’t have to improvise, to go over to plan B or C, so it’s OK.”
After Stybar and Jungels, plans B and C – in no particular order – would have been Gilbert and Lampaert. Those numbers force rivals to race differently. Yesterday, Greg van Avermaet (CCC Team) rode hard to tire his rivals but also to make sure a second group with Gilbert failed to reconnect with his.
“It [Deceunick-Quick-Step] is the only team that can do that,” Van Avermaet said after placing third. “Other teams have one pawn in the final, they can always play three or four riders. And no, I don’t have that luxury at CCC.”
“The advantage we have now is that we always have four guys in the final and that makes the difference,” continued Van Slycke. “Imagine if Stybar wasn’t in there, it’d look different, but we can still manage to have the majority of members in the group fighting for the win and that makes the difference.”
The races ahead extend from 200 kilometers to around 250 kilometers. The forecast shows sun Sunday for Gent-Wevelgem, won in 2018 by Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), but rain may fall in the next week.
“Let’s hope so,” Van Slycke said. “Maybe it even becomes better for us if there’s a little bit of a weather change, it becomes harder.
“The harder the races are, the more we will be there with the majority, so for us, the nice weather is a handicap! OK, though, we are focusing on the next one then we’ll see.”