Also beaming were the alumni present in Wielsbeke to celebrate 20 years of Quick-Step sponsorship. Former riders Oscar Freire, Andrea Tafi, Paolo Bettini, Carlos Barredo, Mark Cavendish and now-directeur sportif Tom Steels were all steeped in the team's legendary 'vincere insieme' (win together) philosophy that was created when the sqaud was sponsored by Mapei and continues to this day.
This year, the ethos has so far turned out 20 victories by ten different riders, with 7 out of 10 wins in the Belgian races. Niki Terpstra and Yves Lampaert have shown themselves to be on form with wins in E3 Harelbeke and Dwars door Vlaanderen, respectively. Philippe Gilbert, the defending Ronde champion, has yet to chalk up a win but showed sparks of last year's champion in Harelbeke with second place. They can all aim for victory at the Tour of Flanders.
Team manager Patrick Lefevere stated that he doesn't care who wins the race, as long as it's a man in blue, or the man in blue-white-red - Czech champion Zdenek Stybar. The 32-year-old has bided his time as the perfect teammate in recent years, often protecting the winning move. This year Stybar hopes that he will finally become the man who profits from Quick-Step Floor's team tactics.
"Of course I want to win myself. I still have the winning mentality. I still want to win a lot. In this team, it's just not so easy. The level of the team is so high," Stybar said, sitting down with Cyclingnews in the Quick-Step Floors showroom in Wielsbeke.
"That could be a statement from a frustrated rider but Stybar didn't sound too frustrated. He actually enjoys seeing a teammate win the race.
"If Lampy [Yves Lampaert] wins we really enjoy it so much. His nephews came and joined us at the table. It's so nice to see his family so happy. You never know who will win, and who is going to be the strongest that day. That's the strength of our team. That we are not jealous of each other about who's going to win. When you see the images after the race and at the table, you will understand that even more."
No more mistakes
Stybar has twice finished as runner-up in Paris-Roubaix, in 2015 and 2017. His best results in the Ronde are eighth in 2016 and ninth in 2015. Stybar's performances and results show that he's enjoying great form. He was in the lead group that fought for the win at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad at the end of February, and then collected three top-10 results at E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen.
The Czech rider is content with his current form, certainly compared to last year.
"Last year, I maybe made a few mistakes in training. I learned from it. This year, I'm there. On every one-day race I was there, already since Omloop but I didn't win there. I hope that one of the two Sundays it will come."
When asked about the mentioned training mistakes, Stybar mainly referred to the presence of his two-year-old son Lewis.
"I wanted to be really good for him but maybe it wasn't so good for me," Stybar said. "Of course I did all the training rides that I had to do but I didn't really get the right rhythm sometimes. Now, everything is much more in the rhythm.
"Last year I did Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico and then a training camp in Mallorca. I was away for more than three weeks. Then I came back when there was shit weather in Belgium. You want to be with your son, play with him but you also have to train. Normally I'm leaving between 9 and 10 [in the morning]. Then I left at 11, 11:30. You're always a little bit behind with everything. I didn't have the right feeling when I went for a long training.
Last year I did six hours and maybe ten minutes more. This year I don't mind about doing six and a half hours. When I'm home I can still be with my son. Last year I was a little bit more hurried to be home with my son. I didn't train less. Now he's in kindergarten and it's all much easier. It's just a few details."
Last year, the Quick-Step team surprised with an acceleration on the famous Muur van Geraardsbergen at 95 kilometres from the finish. The move ruled out Greg Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan. Then, at 55 kilometres from the finish, Gilbert charged forward alone. It almost seems important to be the first Quick-Step rider to attack, hoping to benefit the most from the protection from his teammates.
Stybar played down the idea of an attack that would benefit him but not the team. He feels it's key to read the race correctly.
"You really need to go to the front at the right moment. You really need to be ready from 100 kilometres from the end. It's not always the moment when you are ready, or when you had in your mind to go. You have to improvise a lot. You have to focus, keep your eyes open to see which groups are going. I'm not a guy who thinks to be the first that jumps because I need to be the first of our team. I'm going to stick to this."
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