The two new wolves talked about settling into the team and their first days of racing in the blue Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl jersey, at the Tour de la Provence.

Louis: “In December we had our ‘baptism’, after that the riders gave a speech that we were officially part of The Wolfpack and everybody gave us a hug, it was such a warm welcome. I immediately felt at home, I had a lot of fun at the training camps. The familiar atmosphere with the riders and the staff is just great, and you feel everyone likes to be on the road together.”

Ilan: “We are Belgian, we speak a lot of Dutch here in the team and everyone here is treated as family. I really understand ‘The Wolfpack’ now, the atmosphere is so good and everyone helps each other, that makes the team so special. There’s a lot of history here, for example with Tom Boonen, he’s such an icon. If I think back how I watched it on TV and saw Tom winning Roubaix or Flanders, and now I’m riding for this team is just incredible. It’s definitely special to be able to wear that jersey.”

Louis: “Before the start of the La Provence prologue on Thursday I wasn’t really thinking about the fact it was the first time racing for the team, as you already put on the jersey a lot of times for training. But then when I was doing the warm-up, Patrick was sitting in front of me and then I was thinking ‘now I’m in the team where I’ve always dreamed of’, with the boss in front of me I really was motivated to do well and I was so relaxed that I didn’t even listen to music which I normally do. Then Patrick telling me at the end that I did well felt really nice.”

Ilan: “On Thursday I also saw how everything works on a race day, as that’s still different from a training camp. The atmosphere and the staff are just great. To debut for a new team is also nice, but for this team it’s extra special. I’m always nervous for a time trial, as I like it and I want to do well, even though the prologue here wasn’t really something for me. But it went well, so I couldn’t really ask for a better start.”

Echelons in Provence

Louis: “Friday we were part of the first echelon. You would think that on paper that flat stage would be an easy one, a sprint stage. But then if you looked carefully at the region and the wind you knew it wouldn’t be the case. There was some stress in the bunch to be in the first group. And for me personally I put some extra pressure on myself, as I wanted to do well for my first race in the blue jersey. I didn’t want to disappoint the team and at the end of the day I was happy it worked out.”

Ilan: “For me it was my first experience with echelons. Immediately a good experience, as I was in the first group. The plan was to be in front on certain points and that worked out well. We were up there. I looked a bit at Louis and Julian at what they did, it’s better in an echelon to keep doing your turn, if you don’t you could end up behind. And today is definitely a good opportunity for Julian I think. The finish is going up a bit, so if we can make it a bit difficult during the stage for the sprinters, I think we have a fair chance. Sunday won’t have any secrets, the final climb is really hard.”

Louis: “I hope I can help the team to get a victory this week. We’re really motivated, even though we lost Kasper and Davide. We’ll try our best and make the most out of it.”


Louis: “I share the room with Ilan here, we both have a bit of the same feeling as we make our debut together for the team. We can share our feelings, as everything is new and we both have a bit of the same questions. Especially towards the prologue I think we both were excited. Ilan is younger than me, there’s a bit of a generation difference, but he’s a really nice guy. In general, if I compare myself now to how I was a couple of years ago I became a lot calmer. I think as I’m a bit older, my role is also to help the younger guys.”

Ilan: “I think I can learn a lot from experienced guys like Louis. We can compare our experiences a bit. We talk in the room, but sometimes we also take a moment for ourselves. This week I thought about the fact I’m the youngest of the riders here, at dinner the others are talking about their kids, conversations where I learn a lot as I don’t know anything about that yet. Also when Louis is calling his wife, how he communicates with his little boy is just nice to see.”

Louis: “And after the race we mostly talk a bit in the room, not always about cycling, but also about other stuff. I’m interested in cars. Ilan is also passionate about cars, so that’s a topic that we have discussed already.”

Ilan: “Our next race we won’t be roomies as our roads separate. For me the UAE Tour is next up. There’s also a time trial there, longer but also flat. There will be some sprints, I’m not that experienced in doing a lead-out, but I can help where needed. And there are also some longer uphill finishes, so those will also be quite some nice stages. Being the first World Tour race of the season, the level will be high, but that only motivates me.”

Louis: “I’m going to Algarve next week, where we will have a strong team. We did a recon of all the stages during the training camp we had in Algarve back in January, so it’s an extra motivation. We are well prepared. I hope we can make the most out of it next week. Then for the team and myself the Ardennes Classics will be important. I know the region really well, every corner of it actually, as I have lived there. I’m excited to see what’s coming next.”


Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen / Getty Images

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