The Quick-Step Floors team fell just short of adding a twentieth win to their tremendous early-season success at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. The team's sprinter Elia Viviani got boxed in and missed out on the chance to duel with world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) for the win.
Viviani finished as runner-up and was massively disappointed. Team manager Patrick Lefevere wasn't as disappointed as Viviani and emphasized that the team once again was represented in the finale with the most riders.
In contrast to the E3 Harelbeke on Friday, the team opted to put its money on their sprinter in Wevelgem. In Harelbeke, they wanted to get riders up the road with Niki Terpstra completing a long solo victory.
"You have to take the risk to gamble on your sprinter. We had four guys in the decisive move. We hired a sprinter and we had to give Elia the confidence. There's no gifts in these circumstances,” Lefevere said, while standing at the Quick-Step Floors team bus.
"The deal was that once Elia made it over the second ascent of the Kemmelberg, then we should give him a chance. With the wins we're getting this year - again - we're not getting any results. It wasn't an option to attack because you might be joined by someone who's faster in the sprint. That would be just as disappointing," Lefevere said.
"It was not possible to play it differently in this kind of race. We tried to set up Elia for the win and it was his chance. It's not important who wins, but now it's Mr. Sagan. He came from the back. Elia was struggling between Démare and some other riders. Before he could react, Peter had three bike lengths. There was nothing to do."
The way the finale unfolded turned against the Belgian team. Lefevere analyzed the final kilometres and concluded that there wasn't much to regret.
"The finale wasn't hectic at all because they rode until two-three kilometres from the finish. Then the Roompot-rider, Van Goethem I think, attacked. Philippe reacted. If he would've been able to push on then maybe, but I realize that 'what ifs' don't matter.
"There was a lot of quality in the group and Yves Lampaert just told me that there was a lot of headwind, so it's difficult to make a breakaway. There was some pushing going on to be on the right wheel. Per usual, Sagan came from behind and he took a few bike lengths that were too much to overcome," Lefevere said.
When asked if any mistakes were made in the sprint he wasn't sure. "It's difficult to say. Vanmarcke attacked and Stybar was nearly on his wheel. Then it was up to Yves to work. It was a bunch sprint and we all know how fast Sagan is after 250 kilometres."
Director sportif Wilfried Peeters acknowledged there weren't many other options. “It was a special sprint. Peter found some space and started the sprint early. Elia opted to take the wheel from Démare and they were boxed in. It's normal that there's disappointment.
"They were up there with four guys. This hasn't got anything to do with good legs. He might have done the fastest sprint but the finish line doesn't move. You always have to take Sagan into account. It's a pity for him. He won this week. He wanted to prove himself. It would've been nice. We can't blame anybody," Peeters said, acknowledging that the result wouldn't make much of an impact on the morale of the Classics team ahead of the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix.