Classics or beautiful bike rides.. The changing strategies of Ineos and Quick-Step

9:30 am, May 9, 2022

Given the pace at which benchmarks are fading in cycling, should we be surprised if Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl contested the general classification of the Giro d’Italia, which left Budapest on Friday (and continues to be dominated by Mathieu van der Poel)? In the Belgian team selected for the occasion, the best reference in a three-week race is that of the Englishman James Knox, 11th in the Vuelta in 2019. Before the start, the sports management mainly focused on the sprints of Mark Cavendish to celebrate the successes. from a day up.

In this respect, the know-how of the “Wolfpack” is unique, with 108 stages on the Grand Tours over twenty years. But the question keeps coming back: when will there be a final victory? ‘It won’t be on my grave that I didn’t win the Tour’tries to convince Patrick Lefevere, who is still looking for the recipe to duplicate his recipe for king of the classics.

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The problem is that his wolf pack didn’t show his teeth at the start of the season. At least, until Remco Evenepoel put Liège-Bastogne-Liège in his own pocket two weeks ago with a monstrous nerve. Better than a consolation, sure, but the results are disappointing. Because there is a moult going on? With Louis Vervaeke, 20th in the last Giro, and Mauro Schmid, renewed stage winner for the current edition, Lefevere has equipped himself for the long events. After Italy in 2021 (abandonment), child prodigy Evenepoel will discover Spain in August. His talent is undeniable, but his profile still needs further refinement. “We’re giving ourselves two years to see if he can win a Grand Tour”said his manager on the Radio Peloton podcast.

Spin this winter on Mallorca

At Ineos Grenadiers, the other behemoth of the World Tour, the new calling came even more suddenly. At the 2020 Giro, Tao Geoghegan Hart stole the pink leader’s jersey on the final day during a disjointed time trial. In contrast to the extreme control that characterized the Sky era at endurance events (ten wins between 2011 and 2019), the pinnacle of boredom was Christopher Froome’s quadruple on the Grande Boucle. “We had a lot of fun driving differently”then acknowledged Dave Brailsford, architect of this effective but dehumanized decade. “Now we are beautiful” enjoyed the transformed British manager.

With his budget, which would have reached €50 million for the first time last year (almost double that of Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates), Brailsford has the means to remain efficient in stages and is targeting Flanders and the Ardennes. First stage of the rocket, in 2021: Dylan Van Baarle and Tom Pidcock ascend on Across Flanders and the Brabant Arrow, two semi-classics. Egan Bernal had flown over the Giro after all.

The turn was taken for good during a training camp organized last winter in Mallorca (Spain). “We talked a lot about our identity”, said Brailsford, promoted a few days earlier to director of all sports disciplines at Ineos (football, sailing, athletics, etc.). The last leg of the transformation took place in eight days, in mid-April: Amstel Gold Race (Michal Kwiatkowski), Flèche Brabançonne (Magnus Sheffield) and Paris-Roubaix (Van Baarle) fell into the hands of the British. “Ineos is untouchable,” remarked embittered manager Lefevere. With the heavy fall of Julian Alaphilippe at the end of the dean – “Everything is going in the right direction”reassured the Frenchman on Instagram on Saturday – it is very unlikely that Quick-Step can give him his own coin back on the roads of the Tour.