Making the switch to the road was a big step. I said to myself: if I succeed, I will just continue and if not, I’ll return stronger to cyclo-cross. A win-win situation.
But in the first race, Dunkirk, I was straight away quite okay. Then my first spring Classics started and I fell in love with them. You don’t know what you’re doing there, what’s happening, they are so complicated. Then of course, you want another year. Then a third year because it’s basically just five races a season where you have a chance to succeed. I continued and still believed I could win a Monument like Flanders or Roubaix.
When we sit at the table, we fit together as friends and because the team wins so much, you somehow have the feeling – okay next time, it’s my turn. When I help someone, I’ll get it in return.
Like how we won Sanremo [last] year: it’s not easy to manage because I’m sure that half of the team starting there was dreaming about winning. But everybody was ready to make the race hard on the Poggio, we had the plan and we stuck to it. Afterwards, when it works out, it’s a feeling like you won the race yourself.
The most special moment with the team is the 2017 Tour of Flanders, Tom Boonen’s last one. In the centre of Antwerp, everybody was waving white napkins and a typical Belgian song was playing. That was the year that Phil [Gilbert] won.
I re-signed for two more years recently, so it’ll be ten years in the team. I’m sure I feel fresher at 33 than other pros at the same age; with cyclo-cross, my career approach was a bit different. I still have so many goals and I believe that I can achieve them. And I think I can race until I am 40.
Will it be with Deceuninck-Quick Step? The only difficulty will be that Patrick Lefevere has his rule that when a rider turns 36, he doesn’t sign him for longer than a year.
This is an extract from an article that originally published in Rouleur 19.8, with the headline “One Team Men”.