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Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl comes up short in cobblestone opener

'A race I’d like to forget quickly.' Patrick Lefevere's 'Wolfpack' undone by poor positioning and subpar performances.

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NINOVE, Belgium (VN) — Patrick Lefevere always likes to win and that wasn’t the case on Saturday afternoon at the Belgian opener Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. His Quick-Step-Alpha Vinyl team delivered a lackluster performance and the “The Wolfpack” was dangling in the ropes most of the day.

“Poor. A race I’d like to forget quickly. At 50 kilometers from the finish I knew it wasn’t going to happen when Yves Lampaert – one of the favorites – was starting to chase. I’m not going to break down my team but once more I notice that we don’t have the ability to ride defensively. We always need to anticipate and today we didn’t do that,” Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad.

Florian Sénéchal was the man who had to sprint for second place behind the untouchable Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) but he ended up crossing the line in ninth place.

“In the sprint I was boxed in. My legs weren’t great and I was always poorly positioned. It was bizarre. I struggled to take risks. It was a bizarre race,” Sénéchal said in the mixed zone at the finish.

“There was not a major selection until the final kilometers. On the Muur I was going well but on the Bosberg I was hitting my limits. When Wout attacked on the Bosberg I was on the limit, ever since the Muur I was on the limit. It’s the strongest rider who won today,” Sénéchal concluded.

He didn’t panic though.

“It was the first classic of the season so there’s no reason to panic. I’m never 100 percent at the Omloop and that was confirmed today. There’s still tomorrow and then Paris-Nice. After Paris-Nice we can’t make any more mistakes though.”

The strength of the Quick-Step team is often their ability to play different cards but not only Sénéchal struggled on Saturday. Last year’s Tour of Flanders winner Kasper Asgreen struggled too, and so did usual suspects Zdenek Stybar and Yves Lampaert.

“Kasper had COVID at the beginning of the month and he’s just getting started. Today he had all sorts of problems. Yves Lampaert wasn’t enjoying great form. They did a great job to bring us back in contention. We will come together and discuss about what happened. We will work hard to get better,” Sénéchal stated.

Stybar and Lampaert rode below par.

Stybar was near the front at the Berendries climb when Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) and Wout van Aert rode away with Thomas Pidcock and Jonathan Narvaez (both Ineos Grenadiers).

He was unable to respond to their move, and also when Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain) reacted he had to bow his head.

“Our positioning wasn’t good. We started well but at a certain moment we were too far back. From there we were always chasing the others and that cost a lot of energy. It’s the first time the classics team rode together as the build-up was different for many riders,” Stybar said in the mixed zone.

Lampaert joined him a little later. “I wasn’t enjoying the legs I hoped for. I can’t glance back with satisfaction,” he said.

When Lampaert was asked about the strong team performance from Jumbo-Visma he didn’t agree.

“It was Wout who was strong. Other than that I don’t think they rode the perfect race,” he said.

“It was difficult to race. The race was locked up. The race only kicked off when Küng, Vliegen and Vermeersch were up the road. Until the Berendries there wasn’t too much action. From there Kasper Asgreen and I worked in the peloton to bring the gap back down as much as possible at the Muur in Geraardsbergen. That worked out well because the group was caught back,” Lampaert continued.

“From there I no longer had high ambitions as I was quickly dropping back. I hoped to hang on and survive but that didn’t work out either. The legs were not good. Ever since I received my booster just before the Algarve I’m not going well. I hope it improves soon.”

Next up is Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne where Fabio Jaboksen will be the team leader, even though the redesigned course might make it tough on the sprinters’ legs.

Lefevere wants to win.

“If we win, that’s OK, because I love to win. But I heard that the team directors were hesitant to add him to the roster in the Omloop rather than Kuurne because the new course would be harder. Fabio has become strong enough to cope with a tougher course though,” he told Het Nieuwsblad.