Etixx-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere has said that after the team's success in De Brabantse Pijl with up-and-coming Czech talent Petr Vakoc, the squad will continue to push for results with their younger riders in Amstel Gold Race on Sunday.
Dan Martin will be kept under wraps until Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the two Ardennes Classics that suit the Irishman the best. But the Brabantjse Pijl winner Vakoc, and France’s Julian Alaphilippe - like the Czech, just 23 years old and who also cut his teeth in the team’s U-23 squad - will be two key players for Etixx-QuickStep on Sunday.
In an interview with Belgian newspaper Sudpresse, Patrick Lefevere confirmed that “we’re looking for a good result with our younger riders, and Dan Martin will subsequently [after Amstel] act as a reinforcement for them, even if I never have a Classics team with just one potential contender.”
Whilst Vakoc is clearly on form and has won three races this season so far, Alaphilippe’s case of mononucleosis over the winter has meant the Frenchman has not been such a steady performer in 2016. His results for 2015 in the Ardennes were nothing less than stunning for such a young rider, though: seventh in the Amstel Gold, Alaphilippe then took second in his first ever Fleche Wallonne, France’s best result in the mid-week Classic since 2000, and went on to finish second in his debut in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, too. That was the best result for his country in La Doyenne since Laurent Jalabert in 1998.
Eighth in Brabantse Pijl suggests Alaphilippe may be returning to full strength, but his manager is preaching caution for now. “I’m like him, realistic,” Lefevere told Sudpresse, “and there’s been a lot of ground for him to make up. He did very well in Brabantse Pijl, but will he be able to match the best on the Cauberg and the Mur de Huy? This time round, I’m secretly dreaming one of my riders will win Liege-Bastogne-Liege.”