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Lefevere: ‘We are Sky of the classics, with half the budget’

Just as Sky dominate the grand tours, Quick-Step rule over classics through an absence of ego and focus on unity.

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WEVELGEM, Belgium (VN) — Patrick Lefevere continues his magical touch during the spring classics. Deceuninck-Quick-Step might have come up short in Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem, but the team continues to barnstorm through the first half of 2019.

Are they the spring classics equivalent to Team Sky in the grand tours?

“Maybe yes, only we have 55 percent of the budget,” Lefevere said Sunday. “And I am a book-keeper, so I know what I am talking about.”

Team Sky and Deceuninck-Quick-Step are two teams at the opposite ends of the cycling spectrum, yet are similar in as many ways as they are different in the races they dominate.

One is obsessed on winning grand tours, especially the Tour de France, while the other is built largely around the one-day races, obsessing about the Flemish classics. Both have largely sacrificed one speciality to dominate their chosen niche. Sky doesn’t win many monuments, and DQS doesn’t win many grand tours.

Yet both have perfected their way of dominating their corner of the cycling universe. Sky has built up “Fortress Froome,” and have won six of the past seven editions of the Tour de France with three different riders. DQS is a perennial power in the classics, with the team enjoying a rebirth following the retirement of franchise rider Tom Boonen. Victory at Sky is measured in three weeks, while success or misery is meted out in six hours for DQS.

Both teams have a winning philosophy that taps down egos and produces a collective and highly lethal effort. And each consistently deliver results that confound their rivals. Both have dominant “bosses” leading the way, with Dave Brailsford at the helm at Sky, and Lefevere the master of the Quick-Step ship.

The comparison stops at budget, however. Sky is funded by the largest cash outlay in the sport, with an estimated budget of more than $40 million annually. And that could rise even more with the arrival of new sponsor INEOS.

Lefevere agreed that he has a similar dominating presence in his chosen realm as Sky does in the grand tours, but said he’s not operating with the same purse strings as Brailsford. He said his budget is less than half of Sky’s, around $20 million per year.

After another uncertain off-season, Lefevere was able to keep together his winning machine in the wake of Boonen’s retirement in 2017. The team enjoyed its best season ever in 2018, and is continuing to steamroll through this spring.

“Niki left the house, and some others left, too,” said Lefevere, referring to Niki Terpstra and Fernando Gaviria. “I know we don’t have the fastest guys in the bunch. We all work together. I’ve had this same tactic since 1993. One day everyone hopes that next time is mine.”

At Team Sky, it’s all for pushing the chosen leader across the line first, typically Chris Froome. At DQS, everyone eventually gets their chance. Two dramatically different specialties (and budgets), but each dominating their dominion.