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"We were the strongest team until the Oude Kwaremont. That doesn't buy us anything. Only winning matters. No mistakes were made but the others were better," Patrick Lefevere said.

Photo: OPQS / Tim de Waele

NIKI TERPSTRA

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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RONDE VAN VLAANDEREN

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STIJN VANDENBERGH

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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07.04.2014 @ 08:12 Posted by Aleksandra Górska

It was not so long ago when Omega Pharma-Quick Step was known as a team specialized exclusively in those few, wet and chilly first weeks of spring marked by a tough racing on cobbled Flemish roads, and even though under the direction of Patrick Lefevere the Belgian squad recently started to have an appetite to succeed in cycling events more dispersed both in terms of calendar and geographically, they still remain the ones to beat in spring classics.

 

Realizing it drives to the conclusion that yesterday’s Omega Pharma-Quick Step appearance in the first cobbled monument of the season, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, was a failure, as the Belgian team was unable to take advantage of their undisputable strength in numbers when none of their leaders managed to follow the move of Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin Procycling) and join their reliable domestique Stijn Vandenbergh, sent up the road to anticipate favourites.

 

"It was a sprint of dying swans," a down-hearted Patrick Lefevre said at the finish line.

 

"We were the strongest team until the Oude Kwaremont. That doesn't buy us anything. Only winning matters. No mistakes were made but the others were better. We rode well all race long but couldn't make the difference."

 

Clearly defenseless in the finale with the likes of Cancellara, Vanmarcke and, probably the most impressive rider yesterday, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Vandenbergh ended up fourth as the only Omega Pharma-Quick Step man in the decisive move. Their favorites Tom Boonen and Zdenek Stybar were unable to match the pace of the Swiss champion on the Oude Kwaremont, while a late surge of Niki Terpstra, who unsurprisingly emerged as the strongest among the Belgian formidable squad, couldn’t make a difference – partially due to broken team radio.

 

"Tom struggled on the Oude Kwaremont. Sadly enough for us [Zdenek] Stybar or [Niki] Terpstra were not able to go along with Cancellara and that killed us," Lefevre said.

 

Considering those circumstances, the Belgian team couldn’t be disappointed with the performance of Vandenbergh, who sticked strictly to the plan by covering the move of Van Avermaet and preluding the firing of the big guns shortly after the Taaienberg was negotiated with 30 more kilometers to go.

 

"I anticipated with Greg because I was well positioned at the front of the group. That was good because the Paterberg doesn't suit me. I made the right choice so that the team was in a comfortable position. I didn't take a lot of pulls so I managed to conserve some energy."

 

"It's too bad that Niki or Boonen weren't there with Fabian and Sep but that's cycling," Vandenbergh said at the finish line.

 

Vandenbergh clearly was expecting one of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step leaders to join him up the road, as he refused to contribute to Van Avermaet’s work when the duo went clear.

 

"I could not let him go. It's sad for him that I couldn't ride and I told him that a couple of times. It's not in my nature. That's the team tactic and only winning matters."

 

When the crash-marred race came to its conclusion, however, the Oudenaarde-born cyclist emerged as the only card to play by the Belgian team in its finale.

 

"I wasn't allowed to take pulls which is understandable since I'm not the fastest in the sprint. I had cramps since the Paterberg. I had to attack because in the sprint I'm always going to finish third or fourth."

 

"I'm sad that I'm not on the podium. I tried my best but I think Patrick will be disappointed because only winning counts in our team. Fourth place is something but not enough."

 

"Stijn is a nice guy and an extremely good rider. [...] It wasn't a mistake to have him there. He had to be there and was there. That's his achievement. The problem is that he has no experience in these races. He even lets him intimidate by Sep Vanmarcke. If Vanmarcke lets him drop back with Cancellara he even panicked and close the gap himself. Cancellara was the strongest but also the smartest," Lefevre confirmed.

 

Stybar, who was given a free role in yesterday’s event alongside co-captains Boonen and Terpstra, was hugely disappointed by his performance in the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

 

"On the Oude Kwaremont the two strongest riders rode away. Even if I would have been in the wheel I don't know if I could follow. I do feel that I made a step forward since last year," Stybar said at the team bus after taking a shower.

 

"Of course it's better to have someone in the lead group with a better sprint. Stijn always deserves to be there as he's a strong rider but his weak point is sprinting. At that distance from the finish it was hard to predict the outcome. Everyone tries. It's a little lottery," Stybar said.

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