QuickStep-AlphaVinyl’s disappointing spring campaign continued at Scheldeprijs, with the Belgian team failing to place a rider in the 16-rider echelon attack that escaped early in the race and were then unable to bring the move back.
Fabio Jakobsen had been targeting a third victory in the so-called sprinters' Classic for QuickStep-AlphaVinyl but he finished 15th at 3:32 behind Alexander Kristoff, after the Norwegian soloed to Scheldeprijs victory from the group of attackers. The Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team have had a far better spring than their rivals, also winning Gent-Wevelgem thanks to Biniam Girmay.
The team have been hit by illness and injury but had been hoping to turn their spring around at Scheldeprijs after struggling at the Tour of Flanders. They could only bow their heads in defeat after the race, with team management hoping Julian Alaphilippe and Remco Evenepoel can be successful at La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"An echelon never lies," QuickStep-AlphaVinyl directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters admitted to Het Nieuwsblad.
"Everyone knew it would happen but we weren't there. That's not okay. I sat behind the wheel of the car frustrated all day.
After missing the echelon attack, Zdenek Stybar, Jannik Steimle, Stijn Steels and Michael Mørkøv tried to lead the chase. Lotto Soudal had Rudiger Selig in the attack but not designated sprinter Arnaud De Lie, so they helped with the chase but it was not enough.
They brought the gap down to 25 seconds but Bora-Hansgrohe had four riders in the attack and with the other riders in the attack they made sure their rivals would not close the gap.
Jakobsen was apparently taking off his rain jacket when the attack happened and he preferred to wait, hoping the move would be caught before the finishing circuits in Schoten.
"I was designated as a finisher. I didn't want to take all the risks so early in the race with the risk of crashing into someone's derailleur," Jakobsen said of the fight in the echelons on the exposed roads of the Zeeland.
"Normally you can get back on when you have enough teammates in the second group. However, we were unlucky that Groenewegen was dropped, otherwise Team BikeExchange would also have helped close the 30-second deficit."
"If we'd have one extra rider, it would have worked," Stijn Steels claimed. "We worked with five riders and got close to 25 seconds, but got stuck there."
Peeters revealed some of the team's wose, but hoped for a change of fortune with a change of terrain and move east into the Ardennes. Alaphilippe and Evenepoel seem on form at the Itzulia Basque Country, with the world champion winning the opening stage.
"We have not been able to select the team we had in mind in any Flemish classic," Peeters revealed. "Steimle had never ridden the Tour of Flanders. Zdenek was normally rested for the Scheldeprijs, but had to show up anyway.
"We've had to change our selections so many times that we're paying the toll for it. Hopefully we will be spared that bad luck in the Ardennes classics."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.