Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s sports director talks about the up and downs of this year, and how the Wolfpack spirit helped the team carry on.
From a team management point of view, our plans were up in the air and we had to make a good plan on how to approach the season’s restart, after the initial European Coronavirus lockdown. We sat down as a team and made a plan for the group and every individual rider and then organised our training camp in Val di Fassa, which was the best possible preparation for everyone. From there we started on the front foot and started winning again like we had before the enforced break.
During the lockdown was a different process to manage. We each have a group of riders to look after and we stayed in contact with each individual, but we also stayed in touch with each other as a management group of Sports Directors and Coaches, via video and conference calls, so we had an understanding of the wider picture. Some guys struggled because they had a real lockdown and could not go out at all and trained on their home trainers, while others could go out and ride on the roads, so we had to adjust training loads and preparations for the restart. I think we coped with that pretty well and to finish off the process with the camp in Val di Fassa was perfect.
The most poignant part of the comeback for most of us will be what happened in Poland – it was a huge rollercoaster of emotions. What I saw on the finish line on the day that Fabio crashed, I hope that I never have to see again in my career. It was obviously a very low point and we had to rally together as a team, and also with his family, who were there too. We spoke to them about what they would like us to do, and they asked us to carry on racing, so from then it was a case of sticking together and talking to the riders to come up with a good plan. The guys followed this perfectly and to finish the queen stage of the race with Remco two minutes in front was a huge boost to everyone. We didn’t want to celebrate, but it was special to be able to do that for Fabio. I cannot describe how we felt, but the emptions were intense and to do it for him was special.
We sit here on the last day of the Giro d’Italia and I don’t think any of us could have predicted that it would have panned out quite how it has. We started with the idea that we would have three riders in James Knox, Fausto Masnada and João Almeida, who would ride full until the top of Mount Etna, and we would see how it would turn out. João took the maglia rosa that day, which was really impressive, and from there we just took it day by day, and every day we got a step closer. With Covid and the bad weather in the mountains everything was possible as far as the race was concerned, so we kept fighting to hold on to the GC lead for as long as possible. Now we are here at the finish and to take fourth place in Milan is something amazing and a real achievement.
The team effort to get here has been special. The riders are obviously the focus and it is what most people see, but is has been a huge effort for the staff too. The days at the Giro are long days, sometimes there are circumstances which you can’t always plan for when you are on the road all the time. But the staff we have are always on top of their game and they always manage to do something extra and be flexible in their approach to get the job done. The atmosphere in the evening when the day is over is special amongst this team, where we might discuss what has gone on in the day over a drink. Sometimes there can be some hard conversations, but we leave the bus having straightened things out and we all know that we will make the next day better. We talk a lot of about the Wolfpack spirit amongst the riders, but it runs right through the staff and the whole organisation and is a huge part of our success.
Since the restart most of our guys have been racing full gas for an intense three-month period, and now, I think it is important that everyone can have a proper period of rest. From there, the 2021 schedule is still unknown, so I think we need to plan like it is a “normal” full schedule, starting in January. We have shown this year that we can adapt the plan if we need to but first of all we would the guys to have a successful and safe finish to the Vuelta a España and I think we need a few weeks of real rest.
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