Liège offers last-chance spring saloon for Quick-Step’s gunslingers

Quick-Step look to save their Classics campaign with victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

by Jonny Long

photography by Gruber Images and Kristof Ramon

“I’ll make the report after Liège,” Patrick Lefevere said before the Tour of Flanders. At that point in the spring, Quick-Step’s only Classics win was at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. That’s simply not good enough.

As Headmaster Lefevere continues to collate his notes ahead of this end-of-term report, publicly reminding his riders that salaries are directly linked to performance, things have hardly improved. Yves Lampaert’s nasty crash at Paris-Roubaix thanks to a spectator’s wayward applause, kind of summed it up for the Belgian squad.

When it rains, it pours. For Quick-Step, it’s usually lashing it down with victories, but this year it’s been a constant drizzle of dismal misfortune.

“Of course, the team is in a very difficult situation because we haven’t won any Classics,” says Remco Evenepoel in the pre-Liège press conference. “But I think in the past weeks, we’ve been up there again, we’ve been closer and closer, it’s not like we’re nowhere. We’ve tried to make the race hard. It’s strange to say you can’t win everything because we haven’t won anything. But there’s still one to come.”

Between Evenepoel and the two-time world champion who’s sat next to him, Julian Alaphilippe, these are two riders who command sizeable wages from Patrick’s pockets due to their pedigree and are therefore two riders to lean on in times of need.

“When you line up, you always have a chance,” Alaphilippe said, coy as ever.

“It’s one of the races I dream of winning,” he reminded everyone. “I’m quite happy with my shape. After Flèche, I’ve recovered as much as I can, and I’m already thinking about Sunday. Of course, we have a chance, and we are motivated for that.”

“We were hungry in Brabantse Pijl and Flèche, we are still hungry,” Evenepoel added, and for the sake of good taste, I will leave all wolf-related puns on the cutting room floor. “We want to fight and try to do the best we can for this Sunday. The bunch is very strong, but we are strong too. We will not just be there to fill up the bunch, we will try to win, that’s for sure.”

Fighting talk from two of the peloton’s more vibrant characters, still shining bright amongst a sea of colleagues who’ve had the personality media-trained out of them. And that’s despite the constant press incursion.

“This is the first time you’ll be in a peloton with Wout van Aert since the Worlds,” asked one Belgian reporter. “Can I ask what you expect from him and what your personal relationship is like at the minute?”

“I really don’t care about that, sorry,” Evenepoel replied, polite yet miffed. “We are here to win the race with our team. It’s quite annoying you asked me this question, sorry.”

Alaphilippe and Evenepoel are dangerous at the best of times, they could prove lethal with their backs against the wall. “I’m not really worried after Flèche,” Alaphilippe admitted, having finished a decent fourth that day. “I have something in my head, and I think until now I always do quite well when I want to pick my form.”

The Frenchman has officially put his rivals on notice for this Sunday.

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