Our squad's amazing season continued in Innsbruck, where a superb collective performance netted the 69th victory of the year.
Kasper Asgreen, Laurens De Plus, Bob Jungels, Yves Lampaert, Maximilian Schachmann and Niki Terpstra put in a tremendous ride on Sunday afternoon in the last ever World Team Time Trial Championships for trade squads, stopping the clock in 1:07:26 after averaging 55.6km/h over the 62.8 grueling kilometers of the course and taking the gold medals in Austria, as well as adding the rainbow logo to their jerseys.
Victorious in 2012 (Valkenburg), 2013 (Florence) and 2016 (Doha), Quick-Step Floors were again one of the top contenders and rode with huge confidence as they left the start house in Ötzal, posting the third-fastest time at the first intermediate and using the 4.6km-climb averaging 5.6% which featured inside the last 20 kilometers to their advantage, pulling back time from the teams which lied ahead on the leaderboard and blasting through the last checkpoint just hundreds of a second behind first place.
On the fast descent to Innsbruck, the team hit crazy speeds of over 100 kilometers on their trusted Specialized Shiv bikes and by the time they arrived at the finish, improved the fastest time by a mile, going into the hot seat. With three more squads left on the course, the waiting was long and tense, but as soon as the last outfit crossed the line, the Quick-Step Floors riders and staff erupted in joy knowing the victory was theirs and the result they got propelled the team in the history books, as the only one to have won the crown on four occasions.
Sports director Tom Steels, the man who guided the squad to all these memorable triumphs which underlined Quick-Step Floors' remarkable prowess against the clock, talked of how he and team trainer Koen Pelgrim prepared the race, took us through this unforgettable ride – which saw our team put twenty seconds into the other teams to finish on the podium – Sunweb and BMC – and explained what this win meant for him on a personal level.
"After the course was announced, we came at the beginning of the year to have a look and get more information. Then we made a preliminary selection and began testing the riders in the wind tunnel. Last month, we simulated the flat part of the route, knowing it was important to go as fast as possible without losing too much energy, and this week we did a recon several times."
"The race was hard and we knew there was some pressure on us, but the boys can be proud of themselves, because when it mattered, they gave everything and showed the amazing spirit of the team. We rode hard on the flat, later on the first 1500 meters of the climb we saved some energy while keeping a steady pace, before speeding it up and then flying on the descent. We weren't the big favourites today, but this is what makes this victory so special", concluded Tom Steels.
Sunday's time trial was the last for trade teams at the World Championships, and for Niki Terpstra it couldn't have been a more fitting end, as the 34-year-old Dutchman claimed his fourth gold medal, a new record and an achievement on which he looked with pride and a lot of emotion.
After eight years in the team, this is the best gift I can get and give to the squad. We suffered a lot today, but it was totally worth it
"When we heard that we were just third at the first split, I thought how was that possible, because I couldn't imagine someone could have rode faster, but we didn't panic, because we knew there was still a long way to the finish and plenty of road left to gain time. We smashed it on the descent and I think that made the difference at the end of the day. A huge thanks goes to Tom and Koen, who made sure we had a great preparation for this event, which led to these gold medals. It feels incredible to win the last edition, but it's a pity we won't have this race anymore, because it's really special."
Having enjoyed one of the most memorable days in the history of Quick-Step Floors, CEO Patrick Lefevere was over the moon in Innsbruck, where he witnessed the team's 69th victory of the season in one of the most important and prestigious races of the calendar: "I can't tell you how happy I am. The tension built up as we waited for the team to complete their effort and then to see if we'll remain in the hot seat was really nervous, but now all this tension has evaporated and all we feel is tremendous joy and happiness. Knowing some of the riders we had today are leaving the team at the end of the season made things even more emotional and seeing how all of our guys together with this superb staff pulled it off brings a lot of satisfaction and makes up for a really beautiful moment."
Photo credit: ©Justin Setterfield/ Getty Images