How the hell … do you stop Quick-Step winning Paris-Roubaix?

Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix feels like a last-chance saloon for many riders who would love to upset the Quick-Step juggernaut. Journal Velo jumps in the VeloVoices team car and asks… what will it take to beat the Belgian team?

Quick-Step Floors have dominated the one-day races so far this year and with Paris-Roubaix coming this Sunday, it’s hard to picture the race finishing without one or more of them at the sharp end of the Velodrome. I’m sure Patrick Lefereve would disagree but it’s becoming a little bit predictable.

So how the hell do the other teams stop Quick-Step winning Paris-Roubaix?

Treat Quick-Step as the favourites

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Ask a bookmaker and they’ll tell you Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet are the two outstanding favourites for the race, as they are in pre-race surveys of team DSs. That the focus is on these two riders gives the boys in blue a lot of leeway when the race is on.

To beat Quick-Step, they (all) need to be considered favourites for Paris-Roubaix. Seven of the last 20 editions of the race have been won by a QuickStepper and the team will be lining up on Sunday with two former winners ready to take on the cobbles again. Which means they need watching just as much, if not more, than any other contender.

Work together

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Peter Sagan said after the Tour of Flanders: “I just think that the other teams didn’t respect the situation and collaborate.”

File under ‘easier said than done’, but with a team as strong as Quick-Step, the other teams have to work together to (out)match the firepower within the Belgian team. Yes, I know it’s difficult to see BMC and Bora working as one, but it just might make sense.

With 257km to cover – 53 of which are cobbles – it’s seen as every team for themselves, but as long as this is the thinking, Quick-Step won’t come under nearly enough pressure to make them crack. The quickest way to neutralise Quick-Step is to gather a few allies around you.

Don’t Work Together

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Yes, this is exactly the opposite of the previous point but it might be more realistic for riders to assume that they’re going to get no help. One of the memorable sights of Sunday’s Ronde was Sagan getting frustrated that no one wanted to work with him in the last 10km. [Bringing back memories of the Cancellara years – ed

In fact, no one has wanted to help him in the last ten weeks! Basing tactics on the fact that he ain’t going to get any charity should force him to go about the race in a different way. Remember insanity is doing what you’ve always done and expecting a different result.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: part one

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Quick-Step have so many different (strong) cards to play, while in contrast, most other teams base their approach on one protected rider. For them, there’s no plan B. Obviously it’d be great if that protected rider wins but that’s never easy. A more flexible approach to which riders you have in contention would also give Quick-Step more riders to think about. At the moment they know who needs watching – how will they cope if they face the unexpected?

This is particularly relevant when you think about Paris-Roubaix. The final selection often happens after crashes take out a good few contenders. If you lose your Plan A rider in one of those incidents and don’t have a Plan B, you might as well go home.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: part two

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Mads Pedersen was 11 seconds off winning the Tour of Flanders from the break. His decision to go for it 50km out gave him a better chance of winning that race than anyone apart from Niki Terpstra. Obviously, the big name contenders will find it hard to go off the front of the bunch but their teammates can slip away more easily.

Once they’re there you have a whole new world open to you tactically. Keep going and hope it sticks. Use the rider ahead as a relay man when you close down on the leader. Or sit back in the chasing group and force others to work because you have a colleague up the road.

Imagine if Bora’s Marcus Burghardt had gotten into a break at one of the previous one-day races. All of a sudden, the dynamics of the race change to a less Quick-Step friendly scenario.

Be prepared to go down in flames

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If you want to win the race, you have to be willing to lose it. Another familiar feature of this year’s one-day races has been the chasing group offering very little resistance to that final Quick-Step move. The rider clad in blue goes for it and everyone else looks around to see what happens next. 

Be bold and make a move! It might come to nothing or maybe you’ll find the legs and enough disorganisation behind you to get a result. Either way, it has got to be better than strolling home at half pace and fighting lamely for a minor place.

The races Quick-Step haven’t won this year include Strade Bianche, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Milan-Sanremo. In each case, the race was won by a big ballsy move from a rider who decided he was going to go for it while the response from the chasers was slow and indecisive. 

The one-day races so far this season have followed pretty similar patterns and, for the most part, it’s Quick-Step who have benefited. To win Paris-Roubaix, teams have to be flexible, take chances and learn from past mistakes.

So how the hell do you stop Quick-Step winning Paris-Roubaix? Be more like Quick-Step.

Header image: Niki Terpstra and Philippe Gilbert, Ronde podium ©GETTY/Velo/Luc Claessen

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