Boasting a super squad replete with numerous potential winners, Deceuninck-QuickStep have talked themselves up for victory at this Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.
Led by world champion Julian Alaphilippe, they will also field recent E3 Saxo Bank Classic winner Kasper Asgreen, multiple winner in semi-Classics Yves Lampaert, Frenchman Florian Sénéchel who has finished on the podium in three one-day races already this season, and late call-up Davide Ballerini, winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February.
Such strength in depth gives the Belgian team an obvious upper-hand tactically, something they will once again aim to exploit.
Asgreen told a pre-race press conference: “I think that’s definitely our biggest strength, that we have a lot of riders who can win the race.
“If one of us goes and then gets caught, we have other riders who are immediately ready to jump.
“The goal is to have guys in the front group. It’s long race and things can happen.
“I think if we can race the same way as we did last Friday [at E3 Saxo Bank] on Sunday I am sure one of us is going to have a good chance at winning the race.”
Ballerini’s place was originally given to Zdenek Stybar but he will miss the race after undergoing an ablation on Wednesday following the detection of a problem with the Czech rider’s heart rhythm.
Stybar has been cleared to race again but will miss the race, his replacement ready should Ronde be settled in a sprint.
“We are here with a big team and lots of cards to play,” Italian Ballerini said.
“It depends how the race goes [if he can win] (but) my condition is still there and I did good data in my last race. It will not be easy but we are here with the legs and heads.”
The team’s general manager Patrick Lefevere is confident of taking victory in the team’s home Monument, but also had a message for rival teams.
He said: “We can’t hide that we have the world champion in the team but on the other hand if we play the game we played at Het Nieuwsblad with the sprinter in the team, and last Friday with Kasper, then we will be in a strong condition.
“We have Kasper, Florian, Julian and Yves, and Ballerini as a joker who can wait for the final.
“I have already warned the other teams today that if they want to play games, we will play games. If they try to think that we will do the work, I can say to them today it won’t work.”
And with Paris-Roubaix postponed until October, the significance of Flanders wasn’t lost on Lampaert. “We don’t have a second chance to make up for a bad race on Sunday so Sunday is quite important for us,” he said.