Yves Lampaert capped off a dominant performance by Quick-Step Floors' in the 72nd edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday. The team’s super domestique soloed to his first WorldTour win in a tactical finale, where he successfully counter-attacked the four-man breakaway containing teammate Philippe Gilbert.
Shortly after crossing the line, Lampaert - who lives in nearby Ingelmunster - was mobbed by the rather enthusiastic fans who broke through the security line.
“They’re the best fans of the country," Lampaert said at the post-race press conference in the football stadium of Zulte-Waregem. "They’re very enthusiastic and it’s not suggested to say a bad word about me when they’re around. They’re quite heavy supporters, but that’s great. It’s no fun to celebrate on your own."
Not only the fans were celebrating at the finish line but also his teammates. In a team with big names like Zdenek Stybar, Philippe Gilbert, Nikki Terpstra and Fernando Gaviria, it’s odd that Lampaert walked away with the flowers.
“Gilbert was super happy for me," Lampaert said. "He said it was a deserved win. The others too. I think they were happy to see me win after all the work I’ve done for them in the previous years. Most of the time I work for the team. I like to work for the team. I’m a team player."
On Wednesday afternoon, his work for the team resulted in a win for himself.
"It will not change much for me,” Lampaert said. "I will not knock on the table and claim another status within the team. That’s not how it works. I need to be patient and learn as much as possible in the next two years. For now, I’m working so that Boonen, Stybar and Terpstra can get the wins at the classics."
The race from Roeselare to Waregem was held on Lampaert's usual training grounds. The young rider slipped into the move that was set-up by Gilbert. On the climbs, Lampaert did the hard work in the breakaway group. With 53 kilometres to go, the group reached the Taaienberg with a lead of 25 seconds on the first peloton. Again, Lampaert was leading on the climb but near the top Gilbert attacked. Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) passed Lampaert to join the move.
"I looked back and saw I had a gap on a BMC rider," Lampaert said. "I was thinking about what to do. I figured it would be good to have two men in the move and gave it another go. Through the radio I was shouting to Phil that he had to wait. Luckily, he waited because otherwise I don’t think I would’ve made it."
Once in the move, the duo exchanged attacks in the final 15 kilometres.
"On Nokereberg it was the goal to set up Gilbert, but the others seemed well briefed of our plans but it cost them energy. The pace was dropping on the following main road, so I tried. I’ve got a time trial in the legs. Once I had a gap, [Quick-Step director] Tom Steels was coaching me through the radio. He was shouting that they were breaking behind me. Luckily, he said that, because I was breaking too," Lampaert said, bursting into laughs. “When approaching the finish I kept asking through the radio if it was in the pocket or not."
Exactly one year ago, Lampaert had to call off his participation in Dwars door Vlaanderen and eventually the rest of the Spring Classics with an achilles injury; while shopping with his girlfriend he was hit by a shopping cart.
"We no longer have to talk about that, that’s in the past," he said. "Maybe it had to happen like that because I’ve ridden fantastically in the fall of that year. I was sixth at the time-trial of the European championships and seventh at the world championships. Maybe that wouldn’t have been possible if I would’ve done the Spring Classics. Sometimes things happen for a reason. That’s destiny."
Lampaert forgot to mention that he was also part of the Quick-Step team that won the 2016 UCI World Championships Team Time Trial.
Three years ago, Lampaert earned fourth place in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne while riding for the small Topsport Vlaanderen team, which resulted in a three-year deal at the team of Patrick Lefevere. During his first year, in 2015, he impressed with victory at the Three-days of West-Flanders and a seventh place in Paris-Roubaix.
"That’s when I realised about what I’m capable of, when you’re top 10 in such a big race," Lampaert said. "I can handle long races very well. I’m quite strong."
During that edition of Paris-Roubaix, he rode in front for a long time and worked hard to set up Stybar in the sprint.
"I learn a lot from Nikki Tersptra," he said. "That year, he told me never to sit up in Paris-Roubaix because you never know that things get back together. That’s one of the things he’s teaching me along the way. I can’t give away all the secrets, of course. It helped me that day because when I got dropped I kept going, and things got back together."
During the press conference on Wednesday it became clear that Lampaert wears his heart on his sleeve. He was joking around, though clearly being humble when journalists asked him about being more of a leader in the future, or comparing him with other young riders like Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo).
"They’ve shown in the past that they can get better results," he said. "In our team, there’s so many champions for the Classics too, like Boonen, Gilbert, Stybar, Terpstra, Trentin… The strength of our team is that we don’t need to work for one rider. Everybody’s always grateful for the riders who work for them. They’re all champions on and off the bike."
Team manager Patrick Lefevere was present in Waregem and was clearly pleased by the performance from Lampaert.
"He’d better perform well in the final year of his contract," Lefevere said with a smile, acknowledging that the contrast with the same time last year was big.
"We can’t say much about his spring season because he didn’t race," Lefevere said. "He rode a very strong Vuelta and a very strong world championships in the time trial and team time trial. Yves is someone who needs to be convinced of his capabilities. He claimed he wouldn’t be able to complete three weeks at the Vuelta, or claiming this and that are too hard. If you look at his way of racing, he’s a rider who doesn’t break. He’s enthusiastic, too, of course. He’s an emotional boy, too. I bet he was in tears at three kilometres from the finish.
"He made progression but that’s only normal. You don’t stay 15 years old. He’s certainly capable of good things at the Classics but give him time. For now, he’s got to keep his feet on the ground. He’s got to keep working… and recovering. After his career he can get back to the farming, when he’s taking over the farm of his parents," Lefevere said.
Lampaert is well aware of his role at the team.
“My best years are ahead of me, when I’ll be 28-29 years of age," he said. "For now, I lack maturity to claim a leadership role. I need to be patient for a year or two."