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Known for its prolific winning capabilities on home roads, the team — which started one man down after Mikkel Honoré had to drop out with illness — usually has multiple cards to play when it comes to crunch moments. Not only did Jumbo-Visma use the Belgian team’s own tactics against it to blow up the race on the Taaienberg, the squad was conspicuous in its absence at times.
Defending E3 champion Kasper Asgreen was the team leader and the only man able to follow Wout van Aert’s Taaienberg surge. Florian Sénéchal and Davide Ballerini were able to make the jump to the leading group following a chase by Ineos Grenadiers to close the gap, but Asgreen was isolated again with Ballerini getting dropped and Sénéchal suffering a puncture.
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Asgreen was Quick-Step’s best finisher with 10th place at the back of the chasing group with most of the team finishing over six minutes behind van Aert and his Jumbo-Visma teammate Christophe Laporte. The Dane was hit by COVID-19 at the start of the season, but he doesn’t want to use it as an excuse for Friday’s performance.
“The way Wout van Aert escaped on the Paterberg was quite impressive. That hill never lies. The Jumbo-Visma team is doing very well and accumulating performances. I just didn’t have the legs to keep up Wout. I’m not going to hide behind the disease I had to face five or six weeks ago. Yet my condition is not one hundred percent, and I am not able to keep up with the best. It was clear this time,” Asgreen said.
It’s not the first disappointing race for the team this spring after fell short at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with Sénéchal in ninth their best finisher. Fabio Jakobsen made sure the opening weekend wasn’t a complete washout with victory at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, but it is the only bright spot in a frustrating spring.
The team has been hit hard by the likes of Yves Lampaert and Tim Declercq being ruled out of racing through illness.
The Quick-Step riders and staff may want to consign the 2022 E3 Saxo Bank Classic to the garbage-can of forgotten memories, but it will need to use the frustration of the race to push it forward for the coming races.
Next up is Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, but the big goal will be the Tour of Flanders next week. A win there and the painful memories of recent weeks will go away, but the team has to figure out how to put a stop to Jumbo-Visma’s recent dominance.
“There is a way to beat them,” Asgreen said. “We just have to see with our team how we can achieve that. It’s about finding the right battle plan to beat them. We’re going to analyze this race to understand where and why it hurts. shot. We can only learn from this E3 Harelbeke.”
Sport director Tom Steels tried to put a braver face on the performance and said it wasn’t time for panic stations just yet.
“Kasper did a solid race and can be satisfied with his effort. It wasn’t easy, but we don’t have to panic or be afraid, just head with confidence into the next races because we are getting there,” he said.
“We knew it was going to be a hard race, and things complicated when we lost Mikkel before the start through illness. This meant we had to start in six, but even in these conditions Jannik [Steimle] and Stijn [Steels] did a great job controlling the breakaway. Things still looked good as we headed to the Paterberg, as we could rely on three riders in the main group, but it all changed when Florian had a flat tire.”
A week is a long time in cycling, but Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl has some work to do.