Patrick Lefevere believes the collective strength of his Deceuninck-QuickStep team can overcome the individual brilliance of Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) in this season’s Spring Classics.
Van der Poel and Van Aert were absent on Saturday when Deceuninck-QuickStep got their cobbled Classics campaign off to a winning start at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, where Davide Ballerini sprinted to victory at the end of a race animated by teammate Julian Alaphilippe’s long-range attack.
24 hours later, Van der Poel entered the fray at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, where he left his mark with an 83km-long attack that was only clawed back on the run-in. Van Aert will begin his road season at Strade Bianche on Saturday, where both Van der Poel and Alaphilippe will also be in action.
In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Lefevere was asked how Van der Poel and Van Aert compared with Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara, and whether his team would have to change its approach in order to beat them
“I don’t like comparing between generations. Cancellara was Cancellara, and Boonen was Boonen. There were other toppers in the past. Now we have this generation,” Lefevere said.
“Do we have Wout van Aert on the team? No. Van der Poel? No. We have Alaphilippe, and around him, there are quite a few very strong riders. And with the collective we saw Saturday, after two crashes and exciting racing, we still won.
“If we can keep the strength of the team and this spirit of the team – the ‘Wolfpack’ as we call it – then you know what wolves do with their victims? They isolate them, and that’s what we’re going to do in the next few months.”
Ballerini’s victory on Saturday marked Deceuninck-QuickStep’s second Omloop victory in three years, although the race hasn’t always smiled on Lefevere’s team, who had endured a 14-year drought in the event prior to Zdenek Štybar’s 2019 triumph.
Lefevere declared himself pleased with his squad’s showing, with Kasper Asgreen delivering a smart lead-out for Ballerini after the world champion Alaphilippe’s solo effort was clawed back at the base of the Muur van Geraardsbergen.
“Everybody knows me, I like winning. There’s winning and there’s also a way to win. I won't be telling lies in saying that the way we rode on Saturday was very aggressive,” said Lefevere.
“Yesterday, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne was a little bit different. Florian [Sénéchal], Julian and Ballerini didn’t race and we saw a very aggressive Mathieu van der Poel, who almost won. If Kasper Asgreen hadn’t closed the gap with three kilometres to go, then maybe Van der Poel would have won the race.”
The race was eventually won by Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), with Bert Van Lerberghe Deceunick-QuickStep’s highest finisher in 9th, but the disappointment was offset by news of Andrea Bagioli’s victory in the Royal Bernard Drome Classic on Sunday afternoon.
“We’re not here to stop the others winning, we’re here to win,” said Lefevere. “Bagioli did a fantastic race in France.”
Deceuninck-QuickStep will line up for Le Samyn on Tuesday with a team that includes Mark Cavendish and the 2019 winner Sénéchal. “With Florian we’ve got somebody who won it, knows it and is a local rider, so he will be super motivated.”
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