Our team took the front in the final kilometers and split the field before the Belgian soloed the victory and the coveted red jersey.
Quick-Step Floors became on Sunday afternoon the first team to capture stage wins in all three Grand Tours this season, taking its remarkable tally in the 2017 three-week races to 11 triumphs, an all-time best for the outfit managed by Patrick Lefevere. This outstanding feat was achieved on stage 2 of the Vuelta a España, which took place between Nîmes and Gruissan, over a pan flat course exposed to crosswinds, which saw all the teams stay alert throughout the day, not allowing any breakaway to form.
Our boys were the main instigators, as they moved to the front just ahead of the penultimate roundabout of the day, inside the last 2000 meters, with the likes of Niki Terpstra Julian Alaphilippe, Yves Lampaert and Matteo Trentin pilling up the pressure and pushing the pedal to the metal; their forcing in the strong crosswinds fractured the peloton, who was preparing for a bunch gallop after 203 long and nervous kilometers, and animated what should have been the first stage to conclude in a bunch gallop.
As chaos ensued behind, Quick-Step Floors continued to ride hard and cause splits, only a handful of men being capable of taking their wheel. Then, under the flamme rouge, Yves attacked and put his impressive time trial skills to work, powering away and holding onto that advantage until the finish line, as behind teammate Matteo Trentin helped this move stick by disrupting any chase attempt, before sprinting to second place.
Lampaerts' maiden Grand Tour victory is the fourth for the 26-year-old rider from Izegem in what can already be labeled as his finest season to date, one in which he conquered also Dwars door Vlaanderen, Gullegem Koerse and the National ITT Championships.
"Our ideal scenario was to create an echelon long before the finish, but in case this didn't happen, then we had a back-up plan: to try again in the last kilometers. We wanted to deliver Matteo in a perfect position to sprint for the win, but once we splintered the peloton and opened a gap in the final kilometer, we improvised a bit, as he told me to go, and that's what I did."
I am extremely happy our plan worked to perfection
"I can't find my words to tell you how I feel after this unbelievable day. It's really crazy and I couldn't have done it without the help of my incredible teammates", an ecstatic Yves Lampaert said in Gruissan.
The 26-year-old – who this season stepped up a level – became the first Belgian rider since 2010 to don the leader's jersey at the Vuelta a España. Besides the general classification, where Lampaert and Trentin got hold of the top two positions, Quick-Step Floors came out of Sunday's race also with the green jersey (worn by the same Yves) and the first place in the team standings, all results which brought huge joy to sport director Rik Van Slycke.
"The team's first goal of the day was to help Matteo take three seconds at the intermediate sprint, knowing these would have helped him get closer in the GC. This was important, because with those bonifications there was a fair chance for him to seize the leader's jersey at the end of the stage, providing he would have finished in the first two", Rik Van Slycke explained.
"A few teams tried to split the group during the stage, but it was too early. You need to know when to do that and wait for the right moment. For us, that moment came with two kilometers remaining, once Niki took the reins and went full gas. Then Julian took over and pushed hard, while Matteo played it really smart, leaving a gap behind Yves and allowing him to break clear. It was a tactical masterpiece. To win stages in all Grand Tours this year is sensational and overwhelming! I am very proud of the boys and of the entire team", Van Slycke concluded.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele