At Quick Step’s team presentation in Calpe a fortnight ago, the sun was out, the team staff were dapper and the mood was light.
Well as it might be: Quick Step had 59 wins last season, comfortably the most in the sport for the sixth season running. They’re setting the standard.
“When people ask what would you like to do in 2018? We have the best team, the best staff and the best riders and will try to do as good as recent years. If we did the average, I’d be a happy man,” CEO Patrick Lefevere said on stage.
It will be a challenge to keep up their prolific success rate. The squad has arguably never had so many big names leave in one fell swoop. With Dan Martin going to UAE-Team Emirates, Marcel Kittel off to Katusha-Alpecin, Matteo Trentin departing for Mitchelton-Scott and Tom Boonen nine months retired, there are young signings galore and opportunities for new leaders at the self-styled Wolf Pack to establish themselves as stars.
After narrow misses at Milan-Sanremo and the Tour of Lombardy last year, Julian Alaphilippe is hoping to step up to a Monument victory or a Tour de France stage win. “Pick one aim? I don’t have just one,” he said.
Meanwhile, Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels will target the yellow jersey and Fernando Gaviria could take the sprinting world by storm, with Elia Viviani another fast-finishing option.
Amid the fresh faces, there is still experience: Philippe Gilbert is pursuing an ambitious Sanremo-Roubaix double to get his Monument full sweep, with Zdenek Stybar challenging in the cobbled Classics too.