OK, I took the format out for a test drive, liked what I got there, and so let’s go big with it. Dames en heren... It’s your 2023 Soudal-Quick Step Team!
Yes, that’s the new name, and you’ve probably known that for a while, since they announced it in July, even releasing the new kit (scroll down). It’s a five-year deal, which means the sport’s most stable team in terms of performance will now be one of its most financially stable ones as well, for once. Previewing Team Lefevre is relatively easy. So hopefully this won’t end up being too boring.
1. What has Remco’s success meant?
The blaring headline is that Remco Evenepoel’s stunning success last year and the arrival of steady cash from a Belgian company are no coincidence. Nope, not even a little. Evenepoel, just shy of 23 years old, has been a major winner and even bigger attention-grabber since his teenage years, making him exactly the kind of person cycling sponsors want to attach themselves to. Provided he’s not secretly a jerk, and while some fans like to snicker about his imperfections and the attitude they suggested... I dunno. You try getting that much attention and keeping an even keel. He says the right things, his teammates treat him well, and he’s worked on the stuff he wasn’t good at to the point where he probably has a few shreds of humility in there somewhere.
Team-wise, it’s great to have money, but the roster hasn’t turned over just yet. That might take a little time, and Lefevre is on record as not having settled on the idea of Remco being the team’s sole purpose. You can bet that they will start talking to supporting climbers early in the 2023 transfer cycle, since the money is firmly in place now, but you can also bet that Soudal-Quick Step will keep an eye on both Evenepoel’s worthiness of more support as well as the needs of its other top guys. Personally, this all seems very smart — just as we shouldn’t rush to crown Remco the next Tour winner, so too should the team not rush into a hasty makeover of a team known for winning tons and tons of races without Remco.
2. Can you have too many sprinters?
Quick answer: No. Wait, is this Mark Cavendish asking? In that case, yes.
Anyway, speaking of the team’s other avenues of success, the trick this year will be to work incoming Tim Merlier into a sprinting juggernaut that already included Fabio Jakobsen. Is it even a trick? Not if you look over his last few seasons at Alpecin Fenix, where he paired with bunch gallopers like Jasper Philipsen and classics-cappers like Mathieu van der Poel. Merlier slotted in for his wins between those guys, and performed valuable service to his team on the days when it wasn’t his turn. Really, his job shouldn’t change hardly at all, except that Jakobsen is maybe a step up in class from Philipsen. Quick Step said adios to retiring leadout studs Iljo Keisse and Stijn Steels, so Merlier is a smart signing on several levels.
3. Ah, well, what about the Classics?
This is the question everyone asks (right? I haven’t actually spoken to everyone), and the answer is, unless you can clone Wout or Mathieu (or Tadej), well, just do your best I guess. In 2022 the team’s only true cobbles win was Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, pretty low down on the list for this squad, and it’s a COMPLETE DISGRACE I TELL YOU!!! They haven’t won the Ronde van Vlaanderen since... oh, wait, two years ago.
Kasper Asgreen remains the main guy, which some might view as weakness, but his power outage in the big races last spring was the sort of thing most Flandrien types experience on occasion, so let’s not go labeling him the new Nick Nuyens or what have you, never to punch above his weight again. Asgreen was utterly sensational in 2021 on the cobbles, against pretty much the same field (except Pogacar), and still has a threatening Yves Lampaert, a maybe-type in Florian Sénéchal, and raft of experienced supporters (minus Zdenek Stybar) around him. Don’t cry for them this April. And that’s before we even bring up Liège, which you might know is also in Belgium.
4. So About That Transfer Season...
I’m wandering down Speculation Street a bit here, but I think after we’ve gone through a bunch of these teams, even the smaller-budget ones, Soudal-Quick Step’s signing season will look conspicuously light. Should we make something of that?
My guess is no, although it was close to being a maybe. I am not privy to all of the workings of their budget talks, but last year the rumors were looking pretty bleak until their fortunes turned around. As previously alluded to, transfer talks start early, so if you only find out your sponsorship future in July, it’s too late to compete for top signatures, youth or veteran. Every year the cost of hot young talent goes up anyway, so scooping up top prospects is no picnic even for the Boys in Blue.
At the same time, they retained all of their riders apart from Mikkel Honoré, who had a bit of a quiet season and maybe isn’t the key to their fortunes. And anyway each year we talk about the kids who are just arriving on the scene... well, what about the ones who came in a year or two ago and are stepping up their development curve? Soudal-Lotto actually have several of those to keep in mind. Mauro Schmid and Ethan Vernon scored significant wins in their age 22 seasons, Mauri Vansevenant and Ilan Van Wilder showed plenty of promise, and Andrea Bagioli shouldn’t be overlooked as well.
Honestly, for this team to improve is more about running it back with a substantially similar group of guys, one of whom — Julian Alaphilippe — floated all their boats for a couple years until getting hurt last year. It’s always sexy with any team sport to get overhyped about the incoming athletes, when sometimes you already have what you need and should just wait for them to do their thing.
5. Is it time to finally like their kit?
If you think I map out a post ahead of time, you’re largely mistaken. I just sit down and start typing, like this, la de da... oh hey, has Quick Step ever had a kit that wasn’t boring AF? I will start actually looking back on them in a moment, but for starters I think the answer is yes and no. No if you are referring to their actual one, but yes if you switch it to black, yellow and red, tricolore, or even rainbow styled. But that’s cheating. Everyone looks good in those colors.
OK, let’s take an actual look...
2023: Look at that red stripe!
It’s quite a stripe. Also, because everyone else is doing it, there’s a bit of distortion in the blue field so that you can see a few shades and shapes in there. I guess it’s something.
2022: Before the Something
See what I mean about the new kit having a big stripe and at least a bit more going on in the blue part? This is what they were reacting to.
2021: All the Blue
You can snipe at the lack of design features, but I will say one thing: I really love this shade of blue. I’m not even kidding.
2020: Winter Wear
Quick Step have certainly tinkered with white (see below) but this was their one time they went all in on lightening things up. Set against the previous entries, it’s kind of like a ball sports team going on the road. Or maybe it was inspired by a look Lefevre spotted skiing in St. Moritz.
OK, we won’t cover every single iteration. For a bunch of years it’s not worth detailing the minor differences — white shoulders or not? Dark blue or darker? But here are a few past versions that go beyond their standard business attire-inspired looks:
2016: Black and Blue
Not the worst idea, and since I am working in reverse chronological order, I will say that the black elements were leftover from a lot more black, that seemed to be linked to Omega Pharma being the lead sponsor.
The Omeg-ly years: 2012, 13, 15
So no, I do not like most of the Omega aqua accents, although this one isn’t terrible. Maybe having Boonen wear it is affecting my otherwise negative judgment.
2014: All Black
My one word review of this photo: HEEEYYYYYYYYYY!!! [Not a compliment]
2004, 6-7, 10-11: Classic style
Ah, well these are memorable. The later versions were all updates on this group and the next one, from the team’s highest heights, and featuring the name in an oval.
2005, 8-9: more whiter!
Kind of repeating myself. But if your taste is driven by race/rider nostalgia, this hits home.
So, what’ll it be?
The Best of Quick Step Kits is...
This poll is closed
2023... hey a red stripe!
2022, business as usual
2021, blue period
2020, snow white
2016: black accents
Omega Baby Blue years
2014: fuck it, all black
‘04, 06 etc classic editions (blue)
‘05. 08 etc classic editions (white)