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ALCALA LA REAL, Spain (VN) — How does Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl and the WorldTour’s most winning team make it work?
By setting the bar very high.
So high, in fact, that victory at Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl is the only option.
“It’s not very often we don’t do anything. We are here for winning,” sport director Brian Holm told VeloNews.
“The day when we just think about the next big races is over. We always think about winning, about how we can do it best.”
Quick-Step is no stranger to the top of the charts, and it’s that go-big-or-stay-home attitude that drives the bus.
For the past several seasons, the Belgian outfit run and managed by Patrick Lefevere consistently leads the WorldTour in victories with the team’s successful mix of sprinters, classics brawlers, and breakaway artists.
Though it’s still early days in 2022, the “Lefevere Legion” is already at the top of the win rankings, with six victories on the season just a few weeks into the new calendar year.
Speaking to VeloNews during the Ruta del Sol, Holm said that the pressure to win is always there, even at a relatively small event like the five-day Spanish stage race this week in southern Spain.
“We are always looking for winning. We always try to win and try to figure out that puzzle,” he said. “It’s what we talk about in the team meetings every day.
“We have a plan every day,” he said. “We have the team committed to a strategy. Just now, [Zdenek] Stybar said he’s ready to ride all day at the front.”
Through two stages at the Ruta del Sol, however, the team is so far out of the frame.
A break stayed clear in Wednesday’s opening stage, and ahead of Thursday’s stage, Holm successfully predicted that UAE Emirates’ rider Alessandro Covi would win. And he did.
Dries Devenyns, the veteran Belgian, was seventh in Thursday’s steep uphill finale.
Close, but no cigar.
And for Lefevere, smoking the cigar that comes with victory is the only thing that counts.
Holm on Lefevere: ‘A week without winning, you can have some special messages’
Holm said Lefevere is no stranger at prodding his sport directors to keep the pressure on.
“You know, with our boss, a week without winning, you can have some special messages from Lefevere,” Holm said. “No excuses. He doesn’t make it too complicated. If he’s not happy, it’s only three or four words.”
— Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team (@qst_alphavinyl) February 17, 2022
Lefevere is old-school, but so is Holm.
The vibe around the Quick-Step bus is fun, but with a winning edge.
They’re not racing to get some TV for sponsors, to rack up points, or to feel encouraged for the next race.
They’re racing to win, today and everyday, at almost every race they start.
The pressure can be too much for some, and those people usually don’t last very long inside the “Wolfpack.”
It’s either win or play a big part in helping others to win, or be culled from the herd.
With three stages to go in what’s a very climb-heavy Ruta del Sol route, Holm hinted that he could be expecting some grief if the team doesn’t come up big before the week is out.
“At the bottom, he’s a very good man, but if you go on without winning, it’s not very pretty on those days you do not win,” Holm said of Lefevere with a wry smile. “And if you read those messages, you can think you’ve lost your job.”
Right now, the “Wolfpack” is building on a slow boil.
Fabio Jakobsen is already off to a hot start, with three of the team’s six wins so far. Mark Cavendish brings another, along with Remco Evenepoel and Fausto Masnada with one each going into Friday’s action.
The good stuff is coming soon, with the spring classics clicking into gear next weekend in Belgium.
The “opening weekend” is right around the corner, and then it’s straight into the team’s bread-and-butter across the bergs and beer tents of Flanders and northern France.
“The classics riders, they’re here are also here for the win,” Holm said. “A win here is good for the morale for the classics also.”
The team is big, brash, and Belgian, fully committed to racing hard and winning loud. It might rub some the wrong way, but Lefevere doesn’t worry about that.
It’s obvious that victory is all that counts inside the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl bus.
There’s no “I” in team, but there is a “W” in teamwork, and that’s the gas that keeps the Lefevere Express on track.