GENT, Belgium (VN) — On paper, Trek-Segafredo has a classics squad that should be barnstorming through the Flemish fields. With former Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb, budding Belgian star Jasper Stuyven, and last year’s Tour of Flanders runner-up Mads Pedersen, the team packs enough firepower to be a frontline favorite.
Yet by their own admission, the team’s riders haven’t been knocking down the doors of victory. Things turned around last weekend in dramatic fashion at Gent-Wevelgem, with Degenkolb kicking to second.
Just days ahead of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the team’s top riders are hopeful they can hit the repeat button again Sunday starting in Antwerp.
“How we raced last Sunday, that’s the way we have to go out there again,” Stuyven said during a press conference Thursday. “We showed in Gent-Wevelgem that we were there in the final.”
So far, longtime nemesis Deceuninck-Quick-Step has been in control of the classics. On Sunday, however, Quick-Step was caught out at Gent-Wevelgem, and Trek-Segafredo was the one confidently setting the tone after slotting several riders in an early break.
Trek-Segafredo wants to roll with the same momentum from Gent-Wevelgem and carry that into Flanders. In the Flemish classics, it’s always an advantage to be dictating the race
“The plan for the upcoming races is to race aggressively, race together and use our strength,” Degenkolb said. “We have done our homework. We just need to put it out on the road.”
The big question mark for Trek-Segafredo is if Degenkolb can go the distance. Stuyven admitted he’s not as sharp as he’s been in the past and Pedersen has not been at the sharp end of the action like he was last year going into Flanders.
Some expected Degenkolb to be the team’s new franchise rider following the retirement of Fabian Cancellara, who raced the final six years of his career with Trek’s flagship team. Degenkolb, however, has been inconsistent since winning Paris-Roubaix and Milano-Sanremo in 2015, in part due to a traumatic crash in early 2016 caused by a driver. The 30-year-old German star has struggled with injuries and a string of close calls following that horrific training crash. He scored an emotional victory at the cobblestone stage of the 2018 Tour de France to redeem himself after a few seasons in the cycling wilderness.
On paper, Flanders might not be the ideal race for Degenkolb, but if he can go the distance over the bergs, his fast finishing speed could prove lethal. He’s been three times in the top-10 — ninth in 2013 and seventh in 2015 and 2017 — so he’s not far off from podium range.
“In the end, you never know what can happen in this race,” Degenkolb said. “Look at last year, nobody expected Mads to be up there, but he finishes on the podium. That’s what makes Flanders so special. Really anything can happen.”