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Wolf Pack back to winning ways

After two weeks of racing Deceuninck-Quick Step already has six victories, with Remco Evenepoel, Zdenek Stybar, and others taking big wins.

GEELONG, Australia (VN) — It didn’t take long for Deceuninck-Quick-Step to get the ball rolling in a new season.

Racing in South America, and Australia, the Belgian-based outfit roared out of the gates with big wins, to open the 2020 racing season.

“We are already in the flow of winning like last year,” said sport director Rik Van Slycke. “You see the team winning in Argentina, and it only makes you want to win more and more.”

In the first month of racing in 2020, the team is already leading the winner’s bracket in the WorldTour, with six wins and ten top-10s.

The team was taking flowers on two continents in the opening weeks of the 2020 season. In Australia, the team won three times: a stage at the Santos Tour Down Under, and the Torquay Classic with Sam Bennett, as well as the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, with veteran Dries Devenyns. In Argentina, there was a stage with Zdenek Stybar, and a stage win and the overall win for Remco Evenepoel.

“That’s what makes this team work. Everyone wants to win,” Van Slycke said. “The victory is the only thing that counts. It seems other teams are content with less, but not this team.”

Bennett came to Australia with pressure to win. His high-profile move from Bora-Hansgrohe to fill the void left by Viviani, who went to Cofidis, came with pressure. In fact, it was Viviani, who crashed heavily at the Tour Down Under, who left Australia without a victory.

In Australia, Quick-Step proved yet again that it can swap pieces of the puzzle, and still deliver victory with its highly effective leadout train.

“Sam puts more pressure on himself than we did,” Van Slycke said. “We had confidence he could win, but it’s always better to get victories early. That makes it easier to keep winning.”

The Cadel Evans race, Sunday, revealed another facet of the Quick-Step playbook. The team brings options to every race. On Sunday, it was riding to set up Bennett for the sprint, but it had riders like Devenyns assigned to follow any late-race moves over the hilly final circuit.

When Bennett couldn’t chase back for the sprint, Devenyns, who powered in an elite 15-rider group, had the green light to race for the win. The veteran Belgian reeled in the attacking Pavel Sivakov (Ineos), and kicked to victory in a two-up sprint.

Quick-Step races with a deep commitment to team success. It’s not that other teams don’t race that way, but team boss Patrick Lefevere has instilled a deep sense of commitment between his star riders.

Everyone contributes to the success, from the headliners, to the domestiques. Those who don’t are quickly jettisoned, but for those who buy into the Lefevere way, they know their chance of victory will come.

“Everyone is committed to the team winning,” Van Slycke said. “They don’t fight like you see on some other teams, because they know that everyone will get their chance to win. Like Devenyns here. He’s usually working, but the tactics played out right, now he’s the one winning.”

With these early season racers in the rear-view mirror, the focus moves back to Europe. It won’t be long before classics season clicks into gear, and that’s when the pressure really piles on.

By then, the likes of Peter Sagan, Philippe Gilbert, Mathieu Van der Poel and Greg Van Avermaet might have something to say about who’s going to win Flanders and Roubaix.

That challenge only seems to push Quick-Step even more.

“You need to have the riders and the right moment, the right position and the good shape,” Van Slycke said. “It’s good to get the season started like this. When you win early, it’s easier to keep winning.”