Despite the team enduring their worst spring Classics campaign in years so far in 2022, QuickStep-AlphaVinyl boss Patrick Lefevere is bullish about his squad's chances at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.
The Belgian team has struggled mightily throughout the spring races in Belgium and the Netherlands despite success elsewhere, with no wins on the hills or cobbles since Fabio Jakobsen's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne triumph back in February.
Numerous bouts of illness have held the team's Classics leaders back throughout the spring, but there is optimism within the camp, with Kasper Asgreen's strong showing to deliver sixth place at Amstel Gold Race at the weekend among recent positives.
"I don't think it's a big secret if I tell you that Kasper is at a very high level," Lefevere said in a pre-race press conference on Thursday. "In my eyes on Sunday he was one of the strongest riders, but he was too generous and too good for the others.
"So, we have to wait a little bit more to profit from the others. Our strength has always been to bring three or four riders into the final and play the game. I hope on Sunday we can do the same again.
"Who will be the winner? I don't care, so long as he has a blue jersey."
Lefevere said that the team would not be racing on the defensive on Sunday afternoon, despite the strength shown by rival teams Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma, who welcome back Wout van Aert, in recent weeks.
When questioned on possible tactics for Paris-Roubaix, the race in which those same tactics often go out the window, he said QuickStep-AlphaVinyl are ready to attack.
"You have to see that the others have to ride behind and not in front of you," Lefevere said. "We aren't used to being on the defensive. We're an aggressive team.
"If we can use 100 per cent of the tools we have then we can be confident. We don't have to panic, and we don't have to be nervous. It's a very long race, and even if you have a puncture or a bad moment then the race never over."
But despite the battle plan of going on the offensive with riders like Asgreen, Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar, and Florian Sénéchal, Lefevere couldn't give any assurances about a top result for his squad.
"Only God knows," was his response to a question about Sunday being a turnaround for the team after a hard spring. "We are maybe for the first time in a long time with seven riders who have no excuse anymore because they were injured or sick.
"So, I hope that Paris-Roubaix for once brings luck. And then we will see but I repeat myself for 100,000 times that I don't speak about bad results or good results before the end of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"Maybe for us it was a good thing that the race is a week later. It gave us time to recover. But still we have 18 victories and 13 second places – a lot of other teams would want to be in our place."
Lefevere was also asked about how he has helped the team keep their spirits high and recover from the bad moment they've been in during the last month. He replied that he has simply stayed away in order not to stress his riders out even further, though that was partly thanks to an illness of his own.
"First of all, I tried to let them recover and not be around too much to stress them," he said. "Fortunately for them I was also sick for the last 10 days, so I couldn't make them nervous.
"I don't think it helps a lot if somebody runs around like a nervous rabbit. I tried to stay calm, of course. But I learned in my long career that you can't change things in a week or in 10 days. So, we'll drink the glass to the bottom, and we'll see what it brings."
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Daniel Ostanek is Senior News Writer at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired full-time. Prior to joining the team, he had written for numerous major publications in the cycling world, including CyclingWeekly, Rouleur, and CyclingTips.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France and the spring Classics, and has interviewed many of the sport's biggest stars, including Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Demi Vollering, and Anna van der Breggen.
As well as original reporting, news and feature writing, and production work, Daniel also oversees The Leadout newsletter and How to Watch guides throughout the season. His favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Volta a Portugal.