Watching Quickstep completely lock down the end of Stage 3 of the Giro yesterday made me think of Boels Dolmans and the way they do the same time after time. Then I realised, Niki Terpstra and Danny Stam are bessie mates, it can’t be a coincidence. It doesn’t always work for Quickstep, and they don’t do it all the time either, but Boels do. The only time they can’t is when they don’t have enough riders.
A lot of Quickstep riders and staff have been tweeting about their Wolfpack moniker. We’ve see it time and again over the years, 3 or more riders will suddenly launch a synchronised attack, burying themselves in the process to get a chosen teammate either a massive advantage or all the way to the finishing line. Yesterday, Jungels was not going to go for the win even with that advantage he had, as they’d already decided on Gaviria. When they switch riders at the last minute without a good reason then they mess up, like the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
When you look at Boels, they have the most supreme (almost comic at times) confidence in being able to pick and choose which races they want, and to be honest they can right now. The womens racing standard of five or six riders is ideal for them, harder for others to control the race and enough for their own wolfpack. They can sit back and let a breakaway run out of steam, conserving their energy perfectly, or they can put riders up front, knowing that if they don’t make it then they will have a back up to put in her place. If they feel like it they can expend a rider to pull like crazy, or do a mad breakaway just for fun. If you look at them riding they are constantly looking around, especially Deignan, while their fellow riders just focus on the road ahead. They always seem to be in just the right place, like the shopkeeper from Mr Ben they suddenly appear and congregate ready to attack. A lot of womens cycling is attacking, but this is on a different level. They know what to do for every move their competitors make, and rarely panic.
And how can anyone compete against that? Well, Sunweb and Cervelo Bigla are on the right path, but no-one has managed to crack a full strength Boels team yet. The other teams would be better off putting away their riding-by-numbers tactics and come up with a way to neutralise this orange wolfpack.