QUICK STEP’S YEAR OF LIVING WINNINGLY
The Belgian team ended the year with 73 victories. How do they keep doing it?
Quick-Step Floors just had the most prolific season of its 16-year history, with 73 wins. It was also the seventh year in a row the Belgian squad finished at the top of the win table. Procycling went in search of their winning formula
This was Quick-Step Floors’s year of living winningly. The team took its first victory on 18 January, three days into the WorldTour season, and embarked on the most successful year in its history. When Fabio Jakobsen, a 22-year-old first year neo-pro – and yet another sprint revelation unearthed by the team – added the 73rd victory on the final day of the WorldTour at the Tour of Guangxi, the squad had been winning at a rate of once every five days. But while the entire season was purple, some streaks were a particularly regal hue. For instance, in February, Fernando Gaviria and Julian Alaphilippe were racing the Oro y Paz in Colombia, while half the world away, Elia Viviani had turned into a winning machine at the Dubai Tour. Between the three of them, they won seven races in four days. In early April, the team won Flanders, two stages of Basque Country and Scheldeprijs in four days.
Quick-Step are certainly accustomed to winning lots. They’ve been the most prolific team in the sport every year since 2012. In that seven-year period, they’ve won more than 50 races a year and finished top of the win table on each occasion. (In 2012 they shared the top spot with Team Sky). But this year’s haul broke all their previous records, including Patrick Lefevere’s previous best haul as a team manager: 71 wins back in 2000 with the Mapei squad. It wasn’t always as good as this. Quick-Step went through a bad patch in 2010 and 2011. In ’10 they won 17 races, a year later a woeful six, making the Belgian team the joint worst-performing squad in the WorldTour. Ag2r La Mondiale was the other. The reason had partly been a strong focus on the Classics and an over-reliance on Tom Boonen, who was hampered by injury. It led to a remarkable turnaround in 2012. “Our biggest challenge is to be competitive in every race we start.” Patrick Lefevere, the team’s general manager, told Belgian broadcaster Sporza at the team presentation that year.
The statement could have come straight out of the mouth of Bob Stapleton, the owner of the Highroad
The system was the same: do some races, go for the win; ind some young kids and then let them ight for the win and motivate them. No race is too small: a win’s a win Brian Holm
outfit, which had netted 279 races between 2008 and 2011. In fact, six of Quick-Step’s new riders, including the time trial specialist Tony Martin and the brothers Peter and Martin Velits, had come over from Highroad.
There were two other notable arrivals. One was the directeur sportif, Brian Holm. “When I moved from HTC, which was winning 6,070 races, to Quick-Step which was winning eight [sic], people were saying, ‘What you gonna do there?’ And I said, ‘Well, it can only be better, can’t it?’” he said.
He attributed the turnaround mainly to the fact that “Patrick had a bit more money” that year. To that end, Lefevere poached Omega-Pharma as a sponsor from the rival Belgian squad, Lotto. The other crucial import was Highroad’s winning mentality. “The system was the same: do some races, go for the win; find some young kids and then let them fight for the win and motivate them. No race is too small: a win’s a win,” Holm said.
“We all have a selective memory and it’s probably better to win a stage. If you win a stage in the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina, it’s still a win. If you go to Australia you maybe take fifth. Maybe you have more points, but a win’s a win. It’s a motivating culture.” Not that Quick-Step had to choose this year - they still won stages at both.
One of Highroad’s tricks was to propagate internal competition, where riders strove to outperform each other. Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Bob
Niki Terpstra took Quick-Step's irst of two monument wins at Flanders this April