If you can't mix things up at the Vuelta a San Juan, when can you? That's what Quick-Step Floors directeur sportif Davide Bramati suggested when talking tactics earlier in the week, and five stage wins from a possible seven – spread across three riders – would indicate that the Italian has possessed the Midas touch this week.
Max Richeze bagged his second straight victory on the final stage with a surprise solo move in the final couple of kilometres, while Fernando Gaviria had already two wins to his name after being led out by Tom Boonen, who in turn was led out by Gaviria for a victory of his own to kick off his final season.
"It's unbelievable," Boonen told Cyclingnews. "Especially if you do it with the three guys who lead each other out, it only adds to the morale, the mystic, of the team."
Each victory before Sunday's final day had been carefully planned and perfectly executed, with the first three sprints set up as Gaviria-Boonen-Gaviria, and Richeze being placed into a breakaway to seek victory on the penultimate day. On the final day, however, they had to react to the circumstances.
"Today we were working for Tom, but at the end there were lots of attacks," explained Richeze. "I went just to close a gap really, not to get away, but I found myself with daylight."
"The idea was to go for two or three sprint stages, and we've ended up with five from seven, so we're very happy, all the staff are delighted."
Richeze made reference to the team's reputation for high win counts, the Belgian team having topped the WorldTour win count in recent seasons, and indicated they could be in for another big haul in 2017.
"Last year we won about 45 races. We know that its always difficult but we've started perfectly with six wins already this year," he said. "We have a great team for the sprints, with Gaviria and Kittel, and for the Classics one of the best teams in the world. The principal objectives are ahead, with the Classics and so on, so this gives us puts us at ease for the upcoming objectives."
Boonen was first from the bunch on the final stage and, although he didn't get the win that was mapped out at the start of the day, he couldn't have asked for much more from his week in Argentina, which was the first stop on the road to Paris-Roubaix, where the curtain will fall on his storied career.
With a season of just 11 weeks, the Belgian has spoken of the importance of starting strong, and he'll be buoyed to remember that the last time he won a race in January – and in Argentina – was at the Tour de San Luis in 2012, when he went on to win E3-Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"We've been successful before in here in Argentina – we won four stages in the past and that was the start of a great season for everyone," said the 36-year-old.
"This winter again we tried to have a really hard approach and say 'day one is the start – not April'. And it has worked. Everyone is motivated, eager to fight, to win. It's great to have a spirit like that."
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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