“In the end, we have to conclude that Jumbo-Visma are now the team that we were a few years ago”. Those were the words of Patrick Lefevere at the conclusion of an Opening Weekend that saw his Soudal-QuickStep squad thoroughly beaten by their Dutch rivals, with only sixth and ninth-place finishes to show for the Belgian team’s efforts.
The veteran team boss had flown back to Belgium from the Tour du Rwanda to take in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, races which QuickStep have won four and nine times since Lefevere founded the squad back in 2003.
Since then, he’s overseen 69 wins across the cobbled and Ardennes Classics, but the 70th never came, and Lefevere was less than happy to witness their first barren Opening Weekend since 2018.
“I didn’t come back from Rwanda for this,” he told Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab) among other Belgian media outside the team bus in Kuurne on Sunday. “In the end, we have to conclude that Jumbo-Visma are now the team we were a few years ago. They dominate and we have been found out.
“We let ourselves be a bit overwhelmed by the yellow. But there are also guys with us who can ride like Benoot. If Van Hooydonck gets into a break, then there could be four of us with him.
“But that won’t happen. I have the impression that we want to race defensively, that we don’t want to take the bull by the horns. We’re not used to that.”
Soudal-QuickStep did endure several bouts of bad luck through the weekend, with former Flanders winner Kasper Asgreen ruled out with illness, Tim Declercq crashing out of Omloop, French champion Florian Sénéchal crashing in the same race, and Yves Lampaert getting caught behind a big spill in Kuurne.
Ballerini managed to salvage sixth at Omloop, and then there was still time to turn things around. After all, just last year Fabio Jakobsen stepped in at Kuurne to sprint to glory after Lefevere had some choice words for his team following a poor outing on Saturday.
That wasn’t to be, though, and the team were left chasing once again, with Jakobsen’s ninth their top placing on Sunday afternoon.
In any case, Lefevere largely dismissed the notion that luck was the reason for their disappointing weekend, saying instead that much of it could’ve been avoided were the squad in their traditional cobbled Classics spot at the head of the peloton.
“Bad luck? Ballerini was out front when they got away on Trieu but dropped away, as did Florian Sénéchal,” Lefevere said. “Yes, Lampaert was behind the crash but…
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