QUICK STEP’S YEAR OF LIV­ING WIN­NINGLY

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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

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