Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl fails in pavers opening

NINOVE, Belgium (VN) — Patrick Lefevere always likes to win and that was not the case on Saturday afternoon in Belgium’s opener Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. His Quick-Step-Alpha Vinyl team delivered a lackluster performance and “The Wolfpack” hung from the ropes for most of the day.

“Poor. A race I’d like to quickly forget. With 50 kilometers to go I knew it wouldn’t happen when Yves Lampaert – one of the favorites – started chasing. I’m not going to break my team down but once again I see that we don’t have the capacity to roll defensively. We always have to anticipate and today we didn’t do that,” Lefevere said. Het Nieuwsblad.

Florian Sénéchal was the man who had to sprint for second place behind the untouchable Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) but he ended up crossing the line in ninth place.

“In the sprint, I was stuck. My legs weren’t good and I was always badly positioned. It was weird. I found it difficult to take risks. It was a weird race,” Sénéchal said in the mixed zone at the finish.

“There was no major selection before the last kilometers. On the Muur I was fine but on the Bosberg I reached my limits. When Wout attacked on the Bosberg I was on the limit, since the Muur I was on the limit. He is the strongest driver who won today,” concluded Sénéchal.

He didn’t panic though.

“It was the first classic of the season, so there is no reason to panic. I’m never 100% at the Omloop and that was confirmed today. There is still tomorrow and then Paris-Nice. After Paris-Nice, we can no longer make mistakes.

The strength of the Quick-Step team is often its ability to play different cards, but it’s not just Sénéchal who struggled on Saturday. Last year’s Tour of Flanders winner Kasper Asgreen also struggled, as did the usual suspects Zdenek Stybar and Yves Lampaert.

“Kasper had COVID earlier this month and it’s just getting started. Today he had all kinds of problems. Yves Lampaert was not in great shape. They did a great job of getting us back in the race. We will meet and discuss what happened. We will work hard to improve,” said Sénéchal.

Stybar and Lampaert rode under par.

Stybar was close to the front on the climb from Berendries when Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) and Wout van Aert left with Thomas Pidcock and Jonathan Narvaez (both Ineos Grenadiers).

He couldn’t respond to their movement, and also when Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain) reacted, he had to put his head down.

“Our positioning was not good. We started well but at a certain point we were too far. From there, we were always chasing others and it cost a lot of energy. This is the first time the classics team has raced together because the preparation was different for many riders,” Stybar said in the mixed zone.

Lampaert joined him a little later. “I didn’t enjoy the legs I was hoping for. I cannot look back with satisfaction,” he said.

When Lampaert was asked about the strong performance of Jumbo-Visma’s side, he disagreed.

“It was Wout who was strong. Other than that, I don’t think they had the perfect race,” he said.

“It was difficult to race. The race was closed. The race only started when Küng, Vliegen and Vermeersch were on the road. Until the Berendries there was not too much action. From there, Kasper Asgreen and I worked in the peloton to close the gap to the Muur in Geraardsbergen as much as possible. It worked well because the group was caught up,” Lampaert continued.

“From there, I no longer had big ambitions because I was backing down quickly. I was hoping to hang on and survive, but that didn’t work either. The legs weren’t good. Since I received my recall just before the Algarve I have not been well. I hope it will improve soon.

The next stage is Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne where Fabio Jaboksen will be the team leader, although the redesigned course could make it difficult for the sprinters’ legs.

Lefevere wants to win.

“If we win, it doesn’t matter, because I like to win. But I heard the team managers were hesitant to add it to the Omloop roster rather than Kuurne because the new course would be more difficult. Fabio has become strong enough to face a tougher course,” he said. Het Nieuwsblad.

Jack L. Goldstein