Patrick Lefevere has called winning the team time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, this year "the ultimate triumph" during a season in which his Quick-Step Floors team took 73 victories and won the UCI WorldTour teams classification.
Writing on his team's website, Lefevere said that the Worlds TTT – which Quick-Step have won four times in seven years – stands out for him as the measure of such hard work in the discipline, and particularly represents a victory for the whole team: riders, staff and sponsors.
"As a team, we're very much driven by the exercise of developing ourselves on every level: looking for improvements across areas like our riders' programmes, training and nutrition, as well as the technology that goes into running a world-class cycling team, including clothing, bikes, equipment, vehicles, tools and so on," said Lefevere.
"The TTT is in many ways the ultimate display of all these things coming together – a test of raw power, the right mixture of riders, technique, tactics, equipment, setup and performance on the day. Thus, to win the title is the ultimate triumph for a team, its staff and sponsors."
Other particularly significant wins in a sea of top results included Niki Terpstra's Tour of Flanders title, Elia Viviani's four Giro d'Italia and three Vuelta a España stage wins, and Bob Jungels' victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Jungels, Tour de France 'King of the Mountains' jersey winner Julian Alaphilippe and Belgian road race champion Yves Lampaert were singled out for special mention: "I'm pleased to see how they took on and lived up to the responsibility this year," said Lefevere of the three riders who are still only in their mid-20s.
"What makes me proud is that more than half of the riders [on the team roster] put their name on the list of winners. However, the honour belongs not only to them but to everyone on the team who has been working with pride and dedication, sometimes day and night, to achieve these results."
More surprising, perhaps, was the emergence of youngsters Alvaro Hodeg and Fabio Jakobsen, both just 22, who added their names to the list of winners. Hodeg's five victories included stages at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, the Tour de Pologne and the Tour of Turkey, while Jakobsen's haul of seven wins included the Scheldeprijs one-day race, a stage at the BinckBank Tour and two stages at the Tour of Guangxi at the end of the season.
"To say that I had expected such an incredible performance from so many of our young guys in 2018 wouldn't be entirely true," Lefevere said. "Watching Alvaro and Fabio step up on the biggest scene to win 12 times together – including on the WorldTour – is quite the season for two young neo-pros. No one could, or should, expect that."
There was also praise for 23-year-old Enric Mas, whose Vuelta a España performance marked him out as a potential Grand Tour winner in the not-too-distant future.
"We went to the Vuelta with an expectation that Enric could do well, and perhaps go for a stage victory and a top 10 in the GC," said Lefevere. "As the race progressed, we saw how he became stronger and was helped by a team that stayed around him. He finished off by winning the 'queen stage' [stage 20 in Andorra] and being rewarded on the podium in Madrid as runner-up in the general classification and as best young rider of the race."
With new main sponsor Deceuninck on board for 2019, but having had to say good-bye to a number of top names, including Flanders winner Terpstra and sprinter Fernando Gaviria, who won two stages at the Tour de France, things will be different for the Belgian WorldTour team next season. For Lefevere, however, what's come before is irrelevant: it's about being the best team they can be at all times.
"2018 shouldn't hang over our heads like a phantom in 2019, and if people will compare us with this season, we simply won't be listening," he said.
"Instead, we'll do what we did this season and have done since the inception of the team: we'll give our everything in order to be one of the best teams in the world. There is always room for improvement, to become better, if you pay close attention, so we'll continue to reinvent ourselves to stay on top."