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Deceuninck-Quick-Step plans 50-man Italian training camp

Belgian team to gather en masse in the Italian Dolomites, contrasts 'bubbles' strategy used elsewhere.

Deceuninck-Quick-Step‘s “wolves” race as a unit, and train as a unit.

The Belgian squad is sending 50 of its riders and staff to a training camp atop Passo San Pellegrino in the Italian Dolomites next month. The camp, due to run July 6-23, will defy the model being adopted elsewhere, where teams are diving its riders and resources into discrete units that will have little contact through the season as a means of mitigating the risk of coronavirus infections.

“We initially planned to make three different bubbles like other teams. But we are not going to do that,” team boss Patrick Lefevere told Belgian outlet De Zevende Dag this weekend.

While Lotto-Soudal and Mitchelton-Scott are among the WorldTour teams planning to use racing “bubbles” through the season to insulate riders from external coronavirus risks, Deceuninck-Quick-Step will isolate en masse in a hotel they will take over atop the 1900-meter pass.

“Italy is open. If there is a different crowd in those hotels and someone gets sick, you don’t know who it is,” Lefevere said. “If you’re all in one hotel exclusively and someone gets sick, you know that it comes from us.”

Speaking to Het Nieuwsblad, Lefevere described his team’s approach as “ideal for preparing the restart in the safest way,” explaining that reuniting his classics dominating squad was essential to maintain the team’s famed ethic of riding as a team rather than individuals. “We are ‘the wolfpack’ for a reason,” he said.

The Italian camp will be the team’s second group training block, with a number of its classics stars due to gather in northern Belgium next week to recon routes to be used in this fall’s one-day races. Both camps will see riders tested for COVID-19 prior to travel.

“We are going to test before we leave,” Lefevere of July’s Italian camp. “We will already be testing on June 9 in Wevelgem. We have a large camper. Everyone arrives at their hour – in the camper, out of the camper. It is an entire organization, which also costs money. But it is what it has to be.”

Lefevere revealed last week that the financial pinch facing the entire peloton had led to him forgoing his salary for the past four months. However, the team now seems back on an upward curve and is negotiating contract extensions with key players Yves Lampaert and Bob Jungels, and stalwarts Dries Devenyns and Iljo Keisse. Retaining cobbles specialist Lampaert and 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège champion is a done deal – providing Quick-Step isn’t outmuscled in negotiations.

“The cards are the same for both: they want to stay, we want to keep them,” Lefevere said. “But they are good riders, for whom a big offer can come from another team. Do we go along with it or not, that is always the question.”