Julian Alaphilippe’s triumph at Milan-San Remo may have been the biggest of his career, and the biggest of Deceuninck-QuickStep’s season so far, but team boss Patrick Lefevere sees much more in the Frenchman’s future.
After seeing his team’s plan carried out to perfection on the Poggio on Saturday afternoon, the veteran manager insisted that Alaphilippe can win almost anywhere, ruling out just one race: Paris-Roubaix.
"We knew he was strong, but the great thing is that he makes good progress every year," Lefevere said in an interview with Sporza. "Julian wins a bunch sprint in Tirreno-Adriatico – you could call that a surprise, but not in San Remo. And he beats the strongest riders.
"It’s become difficult to choose. Julian wins Milan-San Remo, he can compete in the Walloon [Ardennes] Classics, and he was king of the mountains at the Tour de France. I think the only race that is not for him would be Paris-Roubaix, because he is lightweight. But I’m not quite sure.”
While Alaphilippe might not be suited to Roubaix, Lefevere did say that winning the Tour of Flanders is a possibility in future – although “different cards” will be drawn this year, with QuickStep instead looking to Zdenek Štybar and Philippe Gilbert next month.
Lefevere said that now that his team have the first Monument of the year on their hefty win list – 19 and counting so far – the onus will be on other teams to make up for it.
“If we can win Milan-San Remo, others will have to come out of their room, I’ve always said. We can race relaxed. And that will happen now.”
Last year, the Belgian team won a massive 73 races, with 15 coming before Milan-San Remo. Going by their haul this season, which includes nine at WorldTour level, they’re on track to best even that. Lefevere took a different view though, saying, "We don’t just look at quantity, we look at quality.”
There will be more to come no doubt, possibly even starting tomorrow at the Volta a Catalunya. But before the winning machine starts up again, there’s still time to reflect on their best of 2019 so far.
"Everything that was discussed in the bus was executed down to the last detail. With Julian finishing it off," said Lefevere. "Last year we were a bit too far ahead for the Poggio, and we learned from that. The whole team worked fantastically.
"When you see how the Belgian champion Gilbert and Štybar work for someone younger, I say, 'Chapeau.' You see what it does to go through the flames for each other."