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Patrick Lefevere on Liège-Bastogne-Liège: ‘We answered with the pedals’

Quick-Step boss held out hope until the end: 'Yesterday I told the guys that they should stay calm and don't act crazy, not race more nervously.'

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LIEGE, Belgium (VN) — Patrick Lefevere had the last laugh Sunday as Remco Evenepoel soloed home with victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl‘s spring of discontent was erased when Evenepoel roared across the finish line all alone in the photo.

“And here we are. It’s clear you need to listen more to this old white fox and spread less panic when it’s not going our way,” the Belgian showed a big smile at the finish in Liège.

He was there to await Evenepoel when he captured his maiden monument and gave the young rider a big hug as the 22-year-old collapsed into tears.

“We’re always the team to watch out for at the spring classics and everybody thinks that’s normal. It’s the fourth time we’re winning Liège, 12 times Flanders, and 12 times Paris-Roubaix. That’s not pure luck.”

When asked if the spring classics season was saved now, he answered bluntly. “That’s a stupid question.”

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The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team from 67-year-old manager Lefevere had been hanging in the ropes during the spring classics season.

For nearly 20 years the Belgian team has been dominating the spring classics with wins in cobbled classics like Paris-Roubaix or in the Ardennes at Liège-Bastogne-Liège but this year was different.

Riders were confronted with sickness shortly before the big races and they failed to recover in time to perform at their best. Combine that lack of splendid form with a series of bad luck and it’s clear why the wins were lacking.

As always Lefevere held off the pressure by stating he would only make up the balance after the final race of the spring classics: Liège-Bastogne-Liège. It’s one of his trademark quotes, along with “don’t panic and the world keeps turning.”

Lefevere referred to the 2008 Tour de France to explain one needs to be patient.

“We are sitting down on Friday evening and people are stating that we had a shit Tour and then we win on the Champs Elysées with Gert Steegmans. L’histoire se répète, history is repeating itself. I refused to back off until we were here,” he said.

“Yesterday I told the guys during the meeting that they should stay calm and don’t act crazy, not race more nervously. If it ought to happen, it would happen. We were playing the card Remco. We trained for that move in that particular place. During the [pre-race] meeting, we told him that was the place where he had to go. Julian would be in an ideal situation but he was no longer there obviously. He just did it.”

Lefevere: ‘Now we’ll have to arrange a bodyguard to protect Remco from the Flemish media’

An emotional Evenepoel as Lefevere looks on. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Winner Remco Evenepoel thanked team manager Lefevere for doing that.

“We collected 19 wins so far. We’re not having a bad season. We’re having a bad period at the classics,” Evenepoel said. “Patrick told us that we had to stick to the plan and if it wouldn’t work out it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

“We showed the ‘Wolfpack’ mentality. We keep believing in ourselves, in the strength of the group. What Patrick did was a great gesture to keep us calm. He showed that he keeps believing in us, no matter what happens. He’s always there to support us,” Evenepoel said at the post-race press conference in Liège.

Lefevere explained that he was confident Evenepoel would go well on Sunday.

“We knew he was good. We already saw in the Flèche Wallonne when he pulled Alaphilippe three to four times back to the front. It’s not his specialty and Julian wasn’t always able to keep up with him. He’s been constantly saying that he’s feeling super,” Lefevere said.

He was standing at the finish line together with his director sportif Wilfried Peeters during the nerve-wracking final kilometers. The gap of more than half a minute started coming back down after the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, the day’s final climb at 13km from the finish.

“We started believing in it more and more but once the chase was getting more organized with three men from Bahrain and three men from Movistar. Once they opened up the gas they came back to 17 seconds and Fitte [Wilfried Peeters] and I were getting anxious. We also realized that if he would make it to the top and still have 15 seconds that they wouldn’t catch him back.”

Capturing a victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège at the age of 22 makes it obvious that a bright future lies ahead of Evenepoel. It also means Lefevere was right all along the way, he said.

“We didn’t make a mistake when we decided to invest in him. We also kept full confidence in him when he receives criticism for which he is always apologizing extensively. It is what it is. We knew he was capable but being able to pull it off is something else,” Lefevere said.

“It’s great for cycling in general and cycling in Belgium that a rider wins one of the five monuments at the age of 22. Liège is said to be one of the hardest races to win so he’s got a bright future ahead of him,” he said. “For now, this win will make him more relaxed in a way.

“There was a lot of pressure on the shoulder of this 22-year-old young man. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. The Flemish press puts a lot of pressure on him, too. We answered with the pedals. Now we’ll have to arrange a bodyguard to protect him from the Flemish media.”