Another Tour de France is done and dusted, and Deceuninck Quick-Step can look back with pride on what their extraordinary riders achieved at the biggest race in the world.
A a hat-trick of stage wins netted by Julian Alaphilippe and Elia Viviani, two exceptional weeks in the famous maillot jaune which turned 100 this year and a plethora of dazzling moments that have found their place in the race’s history book.
For three amazing weeks, Alaphilippe created his own myth, one that will reverberate over generations, after igniting a nation’s hopes and keeping them alive, while continuously surpassing everyone’s expectations.
The new hero of the French public, Alaphilippe lit up the race and was one of the key factors in this edition being widely regarded as the best in decades, thanks to his constant attacking, brace of stage wins, superb spell in the yellow jersey and effervescent personality, all factors that have earned him legions of fans.
“The race has been a marvellous experience, something truly unique. It was my dream to wear the maillot jaune, but to have it for 14 days was simply incredible,” said the 27-year-old.
“The team did a tremendous job riding for me and protecting me, while for my part I fought day after day to prolong this dream in yellow for as long as possible.”
Fifth in the general classification – the best result of a home rider at the 106th edition – Alaphilippe paid tribute to the feverish crowds who didn’t miss any opportunity to show their love.
“The support of the public was superb, I don’t have enough words to tell you what it meant for me to have them chant my name, show their encouragement and support me and the team,” said the rider who received the Super Combatif award.
“I want to thank them for this. I have never imagined this, just as I have never imagined that I would one day finish fifth overall, a beautiful performance and a bonus which rounds out this unforgettable Tour de France.”
Quick-Step CEO Patrick Lefevere had only words of praise for the Wolfpack as he expressed his immense happiness after one of the team’s best ever outings in a Grand Tour.
“We were one of the top teams of the Tour de France and everybody – riders and staff alike – deserves huge congratulations for their work, passion and winning mentality that took us here,” he said.
“We were prominent every single day and all the guys – Julian, Elia, Max (Richeze), Kasper (Asgreen), Michael (Morkov), Dries (Devenyns), Enric (Mas) and Yves (Lampaert) – played an important role in these achievements that won’t be forgotten and rode as a real squad, which is one of the most valuable things that remain after this race.”
Sir Dave Brailsford sang the praises of Egan Bernal after he became the first South American to win the Tour de France on Sunday.
The 22-year-old beat last year’s champion and Team Ineos team-mate Geraint Thomas into second place, with Brailsford claiming Bernal is the best rider he has ever worked with at his age.
“Yeah, yeah, viva Colombia! Tour de France, what more could you want?,” said the Ineos team chief. “We’ve got a new champion, a new ambassador, what a brilliant ambassador for Colombia is Egan Bernal.”
Geraint Thomas expects victorious Team Ineos to return to next year’s Tour de France even stronger with Chris Froome targeting a record-equalling fifth Tour title.
With the celebrations still going on after Egan Bernal made it seven wins out of the last eight for the British-registered squad, Thomas was looking forward to 2020, when Ineos could send their strongest line-up ever.
Froome missed this year’s race – and a shot at a record-equalling fifth Tour title – after suffering serious injuries in a horror crash on a recon ride at the Criterium du Dauphine in June.
It remains to be seen if the seven-time Grand Tour winner can get back to the level required to compete at the highest level again – or how the team would marshal their resources if he does – but Thomas expects to see him on the start line in Nice next year.
“You know what he’s like,” Thomas said of the 34-year-old Froome. “When he’s not on his bike, all his attention has shifted to his rehab and it’s remarkable to see how quickly he’s improved. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to go and see him and catch up soon.
“Next year’s Grand Depart for the Tour is in Nice, which is just down the road from where we train.
“If all three of us are there on the start line – me, Froomey and Egan – jeez, we’re going to have some questions about leadership.
“But the other teams will have to answer those questions on the road. We’ve always been honest, clear and communicated with each other, so it will be great to have that strength next year.”
Thomas arrived at this year’s Tour as defending champion but had to settle for second place, a bittersweet result considering it was at least a team-mate that took victory instead.
Despite any disappointment he may feel about surrendering his crown Thomas – who was clear on Saturday night he believes he can win the Tour again – said anyone suggesting he might be over the hill only inspires him.
“I don’t read it, although certain stuff filters through to me and it spurs me on,” he said.
“To be honest, I’m a lot closer to the end than the start: Me and Egan are on separate spectrums, but it’s great to be having this success.
“I’ve had my Olympic success and it’s pleasing to have some more on the Tour de France.”
The sight of Sir Dave Brailsford and his team toasting success on the Champs-Elysees is a very familiar one, but this is the first victory as Team Ineos since Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s takeover in May.
At the start of the year, what was Team Sky did not know if they had a future beyond this season, but though they have faced questions over the environmental impact of their new paymasters’ business operations, Thomas now believes they have a bright future under Britain’s richest man.
“Obviously that wasn’t the best time,” Thomas said of the uncertainty. “But it’s amazing that we should find such a great boss to come in and take over the whole thing.
“You would never know that Jim is worth billions and billions: He’s just a genuine guy who loves his sport and it’s great that he’s backed the team and left us to carry on what we’d been doing before.
“I speak to him quite a lot – I sent him a quick video when I was in the back of one of the commissaires’ cars with a bottle. I promised I wouldn’t overdo it and I was only having the one.”