2018 Best Moments: Quick-Step Floors dominate the Ardennes Classics
Quick-Step Floors have enjoyed a record-breaking year, with 73 UCI wins scored by 14 riders in 22 countries. Over the next weeks we will look back on the 10 biggest moments for the team, and today we continue with our victories in Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège.
In April, Quick-Step Floors became only the second team in history to win the two prestigious Classics in the same season with different riders, an outstanding achievement which came thanks to the squad's numerical advantage at all times, tactical nous, class and perfectly-executed plan.
The first of the two wins that capped a tremendous spring for our squad came at Flèche Wallonne, where Quick-Step Floors moved early, with more than 40 kilometers to go, when Max Schachmann was sent in a strong breakaway group which threatened to derail the usual script that in the past decade witnessed a closed race from start to finish, for the winner to emerge only in the final 250 meters.
Despite the gap not going over a minute and a strong chasing effort from the bunch, the advantage of the attackers was still a hefty one on Côte de Cherave, where Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) forced a selection, dropping the other riders together with Schachmann. Surprisingly, the duo tackled in the lead the iconic Mur de Huy, where a strong acceleration from the strung out peloton cut their lead to 20 seconds.
Inside the last 300 meters, just as the catch was being made, Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Soudal) attacked only for Julian Alaphilippe to come past him on the torturous gradients and explode away from all his rivals to solo clear in sight of the line, ending Alejandro Valverde's four-year domination in Flèche Wallonne and nabbing what at that point was the biggest victory of his career, one made sweeter by the fact it came after he had been forced to skip the previous Ardennes campaign due to a knee injury.
"I have been on the podium of this race twice, and if the first time, three years ago, I was surprised, the second time I was frustrated, but I also took that result as a confirmation. I have always kept believing and worked hard to land a victory here and it finally came this season. The team was extraordinary, protected and kept me in a good position, so I want to thank them for their help, because I couldn't have made it without such amazing teammates. In the final, things became hectic, but I remained calm and rode my own tempo before attacking at the right moment and leaving the legs do the talking", Julian said after his first ever Classics win.
Quick-Step Floors' incredible week continued four days later at Liège–Bastogne–Liège (258km), where Bob Jungels capitalized on a witty acceleration of 2011 winner Philippe Gilbert that put the peloton on the wrong foot, attacking over the top of Côte de Roche-aux-Faucons and going in full time trial mode for the closing 20 kilometers of the season's fourth Monument.
The Luxembourg Champion quickly gained half a minute over the thinned out pack, where Julian Alaphilippe (who went on to finish fourth) stopped the others from putting in a cohesive chase behind Bob; the 25-year-old didn't panic despite having his advantage cut on Côte de Saint-Nicolas, the last hill of the day, dosed his effort carefully, knowing that the final kilometers would play into his favour, and was handsomely rewarded at the end of the day with a career-defining result.
In his third season with Quick-Step Floors, Jungels increased again his advantage after the last classified climb of the race and had plenty of time to celebrate a historic victory for him and the team, 37 seconds – the largest winning margin in the last nine years – separating him from the riders who rounded out the podium in Ans, where the Belgian Monument, which from next season will move to the center of Liège, concluded for the last time.
"To be honest, that victory came as a surprise. I didn't believe I could pull it off until I saw that nobody was behind me as I was approaching the finish line. On the night before the race I watched together with Julian the 2011 edition, when the winning move was made on Roche-aux-Faucons, and I made my attack in the same place."
I was waiting for this win for a long time and to finally take it was pretty unreal
"It's the most beautiful one-day race in the world, and to get the victory there, close to Luxembourg and in front of my family and fans, who all came to support me, it's something I will always remember", continued Bob, the first Quick-Step Floors rider to win "La Doyenne", the oldest Monument in the world. "We are more than a team. Quick-Step Floors is a family, we trust each other and everybody knows what his role is, and more importantly, gets a chance on the team, as we could see in many of this season's races. We are always there for each other, fighting until the very end, and that is just one of the things that make this team great."
Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen/ Getty Images