Before heading off to their respective home destinations of Budapest and Bergamo, we talked with our two stagiaires, the Hungarian National Champion Barnabás Peák and Dane Mikkel Honoré about their first weekend with the team.
How was your first weekend with the team?
Barnabás Peák: It has been a great weekend of racing and meeting the team again, after I was part of their training camp in December. I arrived Friday from Budapest and was picked up by the team soigneur at the airport in Brussels, where I immediately felt welcome. All the guys have just been amazing, open and friendly.
I definitely felt that I was racing at a higher level this weekend, especially at Brussels Classic in the first kilometers with such a strong line-up of teams and riders. Honestly, I felt it was a pretty hectic start but later, when we moved to the front together as a team, I felt the respect that comes along when you are wearing the Quick-Step Floors jersey. It is a big team and everybody knows the colours, but I am not used to getting that sort of respect moving around in the peloton, so that was quite a change.
Overall, I am just super happy to get this experience and thankful for how well we both Mikkel and I were welcomed onto to the team at the two races this weekend. I gave my all, so I am hoping that the sports directors and other riders were happy with what I did for the team.
Mikkel Honoré: It is been quite crazy, to be honest. In a good way, of course! A bit unreal, let's say. This weekend, I raced with many of the guys I have used to look up to and for one of the best teams in the world – the team everybody wants to race with.
I was really pleased that I had the legs to make a difference at the two races. After being sidelined for most of July, I came out of L'Avenir feeling quite good but I wasn't sure if I had what it takes to be on this level so it was really comforting that I could go with the pace, and that both I and Barnabás were able to give something to the team.
What was the best moment?
BP: It was really motivating to work for the team, for Fabio and Alvaro, who we knew had a good shot at winning Saturday and Sunday, respectively. We came close both days but were missing the luck in the final. I had no problems with the bike neither with my legs or anything like that, so it's just been a really good experience overall. If I have to say one thing that stands out it was the moment when Mikkel and I were riding in the front of the bunch at GP Fourmies, chasing down the breakaway. Davide Bramati kept saying on the radio "good job guys, another 20 seconds, you are closing the gap fast". That was a very special feeling, seeing you are helping the team and making a difference. Another thing that stands out is how professional everything is. We get a daily massage and the food we had was very good. It has been a great first meeting with the team.
MH: It was like a second Christmas receiving all the new clothing and gear. And the best part is I got a Tarmac SL6 with me back home to Bergamo. Best bike I ever rode!
And, yeah, very much like Barnabás is saying, it was a good moment to be able to control a strong breakaway yesterday and to be there in the very final of the race. We moved up with about 50 kilometers to go and stayed up in the front until the last 10 kilometers, riding full gas to catch back the breakaway and put the team in position for the sprint. Coming into the races, I didn't know what I was capable of, as already mentioned, but wearing the Quick-Step Floors jersey gives you the legs to do stuff, apparently. I am really pleased with how both Barnabas and I performed – and happy that the team thought we did a good job too.
In Brussels, we unfortunately were a bit unlucky with Fabio who was caught behind a crash in the final, but that is also cycling and even though it would have been amazing to take a victory in my first race, I feel like we had a successful weekend. You can't always win, although the team has been winning almost everything this year. It is a mentality that you immediately feel. We are racing to win races.
What did you learn already?
BP: I have learned a lot, like for instance at Brussels Classic, where Yves Lampaert came to me during the race giving me tips on how to break better, and also Stybar was very good at giving advices, which I am grateful for. The whole team is very happy to share from its experience and help me and Mikkel progress and learn as much as possible. Hard to point just one thing out but being around a team with such experience, you can learn something new every day.
MH: I feel I already learned a lot about racing on this level. It couldn't mention just one thing, it's the overall picture that I take with me. Of course, there were moments where I got some advices or saw things being done in a certain way.
What stands out, if I have to say one thing, is the professionalism that exists within the team, from the mechanics to soigneurs over to the equipment we use and the food we eat. The first morning, when I was walking down the stairs with my suitcase, one soigneur of the team asked me what I was doing. At first, I didn't understand what he meant but he was referring to me carrying around my suitcase, something that is taking care of by the team he told me, so the riders can focus on the race. In the night, we get a protein shake and our helmet is washed after the race. It is just professional down to the last small bit of the team, and I think I can speak for both Barnabás and myself when saying it is something that we were both stunned by.
How did you experience the culture in the team?
BP: Well, Davide Bramati was with us this weekend and at one point during the dinner he was entertaining not only us, but the whole hotel with a story from a race he once did as professional. Being with the team, all laughing together and having a good time is something I found very unique – indeed a nice moment to be part of.
MH: It's been really nice to learn that a guy like Zdenek Stybar, one of the best riders in the world, is just a normal person at dinner. He isn't any different from me or Barnabás, although his palmares outshines both mine and Barnabás' by lengths. That is generally how I feel about the team. Nobody seems to be better than others, or think they are better just because they have the palmares.
If you can say only one thing, what do you look most forward to?
BP: I am definitely looking forward to my next race, Textielprijs Vichte. I hope that I can be on the same level as in this weekend and perhaps even be a bit competitive in the front or in the final. It would be fantastic to be part of the final, either going for a good result myself or helping the team.
MH: I am of course looking forward the next races with the team, Vichte and Tour de l'Eurometropole. If I can dream a bit, it would be awesome to be part of a victory with the Wolfpack. I know it's a high ambition, but I feel that it is allowed to have high ambitions on this team. It would really be icing on the cake if I could help the team in getting a victory in one of the last races of the season.
Photo credit: ©Sigfrid Eggers