Alpecin–Deceuninck: King of the One-Day Races

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

This has been a spectacular 2024 so far for Alpecin-Deceuninck: 10 race victories since the young Axel Laurance won stage 2 of the Etoile de Bessèges on February 1. Those victories include Milan–San Remo, the Classic Brugge-De Panne (both by Jasper Philipsen), the E3 Saxo Classic, the Tour of Flanders and, most recently, Paris-Roubaix (all three by Mathieu van der Poel).

That follows a highly successful 2023, when the German team recorded 35 wins, 19 of them by Philipsen, including four Tour de France stages (and the Tour de France Škoda Green Jersey), seven by Australian sprinter Kaden Groves, including two Vuelta stages, and five by van der Poel (who also became world road race champion last year).

In Philipsen and van der Poel Alpecin has – until at least 2028 – the best sprinter on the planet and one of the best – if not the best – Classics riders of all time. Thanks to them, and Kaden Groves, Alpecin has effectively supplanted Remco Evenepoel’s Soudal–Quick Step, who had dominated for so long, as the kings of one-day racing.

Part of the reason is that Soudal’s – and Evenepoel’s – energy and strategy are this year focused on the Belgian’s Tour de France ambitions. If the reigning time trial world champion had decided to focus instead on the Classics, things might have turned out different. Evenepoel is one of three riders who, on his best day, could present a real Classics challenge to van der Poel – the other two being Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Wout van Aert (Visma–Lease a Bike).Team Alpecin Deceuninck

But maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. This year van der Poel has reached an unprecedented racing level, and the Alpecin-Deceuninck riders surrounding him are very solid and work tirelessly in carrying out team strategy. Nowhere was that more in evidence than in this year’s Paris-Roubaix, which van der Poel won with an extraterrestrial 60km solo break. But his support riders, headed by the indefatigable Gianni Vermeersch, gave him the perfect conditions for that solo excursion, starting with 150km still left in the race.

Van der Poel is slated to ride two more one-day races, the classic Amstel Gold Race on Sunday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège one week later, before preparing for the Paris Olympics and the World Championships. Until he broke his collarbone and shoulder blade in last week’s Itzulia Basque Country, Evenepoel was due to ride in the Liège, where it would have set up an intriguing contest with van der Poel and Pogačar. Still, a mano a mano between the Slovenian two-time Tour de France winner and van der Poel would generate enough sparks to light up a big city.

Van der Poel and Philipsen are 29 and 26 years of age respectively. Groves, who is 25, is in the last year of his contract. His future with Alpecin is uncertain, but he is scheduled to ride the Giro next month, where he will try to improve on the one stage win he took in the race last year. Should he leave the team, Alpecin has a rider ready who seems ready to step into his shoes, the 22-year-old Axel Laurance. The young Frenchman won the 2023 Under-23 World Championship Road Race and this year took his first World Tour victory when he won a hotly contested bunch sprint at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya.

However, like many of the team’s other young riders, his contract expires at the end of this year, so that it is unclear now what Alpecin-Deceuninck will look like in 2025. But it is safe to say that, with its two superstars, it is guaranteed to rule the one-day racing for another few years at least.