On the Quai des Ardennes, beyond the finish line at Liège-Bastogne-Liège as Remco Evenepoel was completing the final kilometres of the 257km marathon through the Ardennes, a small group of QuickStep-AlphaVinyl staff assembled among the waiting soigneurs and journalists.
Team manager Patrick Lefevere was there, as was veteran directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters, rider Tim Declercq, who had abandoned the race earlier, and the team press staff. The group, plus Evenepoel's parents and girlfriend, were anticipating the ascension of the 22-year-old from pretender to Monument winner.
The hectic scene quickly exploded into life as Evenepoel crossed the line after a 29km solo ride, the Belgian having 'saved' QuickStep's spring Classics campaign at the last gasp. TV cameras, photographers, and journalists alike clamoured for those first shots and quotes as Evenepoel rode into the mass of outstretched arms of those waiting for him.
Once the initial exuberant celebrations were over, it was Lefevere, 20 years at the helm of the team, who was sought out for comment on Evenepoel's feat.
"We went all-out for Remco because we knew he was strong," Lefevere told the assembled press. "We already saw that in La Flèche Wallonne where he took Julian Alaphilippe to the front of the peloton three or four times.
"That wasn't his specialty and Julian could not always follow. Here we were planning the opposite, with Julian setting up Remco."
Evenepoel said in the post-race press conference some time later that he had endured a long road back to the top following his career-threatening crash at Il Lombardia in late 2020.
Lefevere commented that Evenepoel's victory, and the manner in which it was achieved, via an unstoppable acceleration on the Côte de La Redoute, showed that the team was right to keep faith with their young charge through the long rehabilitation process – both physical and mental – and the ensuing difficulties along the way.
"This win shows that we didn't make a mistake investing in him," Lefevere said. "We've always had full confidence in him, in spite of the criticism he receives. We knew he could it but being able to achieve this is something else.
"When you see him today attacking over the top to escape so easily and then dropping Armirail, well that says it all. Remco knows this course like the back of his hand – every centimetre is familiar to him. That helped, of course."
Lefevere, who has now overseen two victories at Liège with QuickStep – the previous being Bob Jungels' triumph in 2018 – said that there was some tension on the run-in, especially once the chase group behind Evenepoel got organised.
However, after the attacking behind started on the final climb of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, the gap only grew, his victory assured.
"We had hope," Lefevere said. "But then the chase got organised with three from Bahrain and three from Movistar. They reduced the gap to 16 or 17 seconds, and we had some palpitations for a moment. But we [Lefevere and Peeters] said that if he gets to the top with 15 seconds, they won't catch him.
"It's a stupid question," Lefevere responded when asked if the win now meant his team had enjoyed a successful spring. "Yes, of course I am satisfied."
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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.
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