FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Quick-Step Floors’s team time trial win at UCI road worlds on Sunday pushed it closer to a new win record. And with the worlds road race approaching, stars like Enric Mas and Julian Alaphilippe could provide the final push.
The team now counts 69 wins this season, two taken Sunday, and stands just two shy of the all-time record of 71 for team boss Patrick Lefevere.
“71 is our new target, that is my all-time record with Mapei-Quick Step at the time,” Lefevere said last week.
Lefevere always created a successful environment in his nearly 20 years managing teams with Paolo Bettini, Tom Boonen, and Philippe Gilbert. Now, in the last six seasons, his team has ended at the top in terms of wins.
Season wins breakdown:
2012: 51 (tied with Team Sky)
“In 2000, we won 71 times with Mapei-Quick Step. We then needed 43 riders and rode a triple program. Now, we did it with 28 riders. Suddenly, 71 victories are no longer a distant dream,” Lefevere said.
Lefevere recently broke the record of 61 with the current management formation. Now, the 71-win mark from 2000 seems within reach considering, the speed the team is traveling.
On Sunday, Philippe Gilbert returned in his first race back after breaking his kneecap at the Tour de France and won the GP d’Isbergues. Within the hour, Quick-Step beat Sunweb to win the world championship team time trial in Innsbruck, Austria. Those performances gave the squad wins 68 and 69.
This week in Austria’s western state of Tyrol, riders will put on their national colors to race the remaining world championship events: the individual time trial and road races.
The attention turns to 23-year-old Spaniard Enric Mas, who was second overall in the recent Vuelta a España, and red-hot favorite Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe. Both could bring Quick-Step the rainbow jersey.
The worlds course includes nearly 5,000 meters of climbing, with the sharp, 2.8km Gramartboden climb just 8.8km before the finish line in Innsbruck.
Lefevere’s team over the last decade and a half has included world champions like Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen. Stijn Devolder, Tony Martin, Mark Cavendish, and Michal Kwiatkowski filled out the rosters. The current 30-man lineup includes Gilbert, Mas, Alaphilippe, Bob Jungels, Niki Terpstra, and Fernando Gaviria.
The 2018 roster has given the team a dream season. Italian sprinter Elia Viviani finally reached his top speed after racing with Team Sky and won 19 times. Among those victories were stage wins at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, along with the Italian national title. Gaviria and Alaphilippe each won two stages in the Tour de France. Terpstra gave Lefevere another win at the Tour of Flanders.
“This is a wonderful farewell present,” Terpstra said of the TTT win. “This is really cool.”
After eight years with the team, Terpstra is moving to Direct Energie for 2019. It underlines a problem for Lefevere, which is keeping all of his top stars in house with a modest budget.
“It always hurts,” Lefevere told Sporza last month when asked about top stars leaving his team.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have a chest to draw out the money I would like, otherwise I would be the boss of Team Sky and not of Quick-Step.”
Quick-Step runs on an estimated 18 million euros, or roughly $20.4 million. Sky is at the top of the spectrum with 31 million British pounds, or about $39.4 million.
For now, the team is focused on ending 2018 on a high. It has the world championships this week and a series of other races, including Il Lombardia, the Tour of Turkey, and the Tour of Guangxi, left on the schedule.
If 70 comes this week in Innsbruck, 71 could come shortly after. Perhaps even 72.
Reaching Team Highroad’s mark may be difficult. With Mark Cavendish sprinting to victories everywhere, the American team recorded 77 in 2008 and 85 in 2009.