Quick-Step Floors started the men's team time trial at the Bergen Road World Championships hoping to take a second consecutive world title but their chances were derailed after a fast start, when Niki Terpstra was distanced after just 20 kilometres of the 42.5-kilometre course. With Tony Martin now at Katusha-Alpecin and Marcel Kittel not on form and not in the six-rider line-up, Quick-Step could only finish fourth, 35 seconds down on winner Team Sunweb.
Terpstra has often been a key rider for Quick-Step Floors in team time trials. He rode the Vuelta a España after a injury-hit summer, and, dealing with illness, he was not at his best in Bergen. The other five riders: Philippe Gilbert, Jack Bauer, Yves Lampaert, Julien Vermote and Bob Jungels were unable go make up for losing Terpstra so early.
"We gave everything but the result is not what we expected," Gilbert sentenced with honesty as he passed through the mixed zone with his disappointed teammates.
"We were hoping to win or at least be on the podium but we finished fourth and we have to accept it. We didn't make any mistakes or anything. I think you always get the place you deserve in a team time trial. We were 10 or 12 seconds off the podium and that's a lot. If you miss the podium by one or two seconds, it's a different feeling. We have to accept this result."
Gilbert had no qualms about revealing how the loss of Terpstra affected their performance.
"I think the cohesion was the key this time and losing one guy quickly made a big difference. Every time you have to pull, having one less guy means you have 25 seconds less of recovery time. For one or two kilometres you can do it but for 10 kilometres you pay for it and feel it," he explained.
"When we lost Niki I didn't look back because it's dangerous and you can cause a crash in the team. I think he had a mechanical problem or something. At first we didn't know if we had to wait but then we kept going. Jack [Bauer] did a good job till the last hard climb and then had to stay behind but he did his job before."
Swapping Quick-Step Floors dark blue for Team Belgium colours
Gilbert is one of the favourites for next Sunday's elite men's road race and will now swap his dark blue Quick-Step Floors colours for the iconic lighter blue of the Belgian national kit.
While the Italian men's team will only arrive in Bergen on Thursday and Peter Sagan will only arrive late on Friday, Gilbert revealed he will stay in Bergen all week, hoping the ever-changing weather in Europe's rainiest city will allow him to train effectively before Sunday.
"I'm staying here in Bergen because we have to be here with the [Belgian] team from Tuesday," he explained.
"My training will depend on the weather and I'll probably do a bit more of a ride one day. But first we'll recover from this and then think about Sunday."