France’s next cobbled sensation returns to the team that turned him pro back in 2012, Quickstep. Can the youngster impress among some of the most talented classics riders of a generation?
Former junior Paris Roubaix winner and young cobbled sensation, Florian Sénéchal, penned a new contract at the Quickstep Floors team back in early August. Since then his transfer has been met with much fascination from die hard classics fans, and for very good reason…
The youngster was eager to announce his return to Quickstep roots and had this to say when questioned on his big summer move,
“My goal is to be there in all the races and give my very best, but I have a special love for the Classics and it would be a big dream to win one of these iconic races with this fantastic team. Quick-Step Floors have fostered so many champions in the past 15 years and I’m sure they can also help me boost my abilities as a rider.”
Not only did young Sénéchal have the backing of old teammates and new, but also from one of the most influential directeur sportifs in the business, Patrick Lefevere.
“Florian is a strong and talented rider, whose addition to our squad I am sure will bear fruit, as he brings considerable experience, despite his young age. He is willing to learn and improve, and at the same time, is motivated and driven by passion for this sport, all important attributes to succeed as a rider at the highest level.”
Sénéchal heads to Quickstep among talented company, Michael Morkov and Elia Viviani just some of the Belgian’s other top purchases. The young Frenchman’s position in the team is so far uncertain, but there’s no doubting that he’s been brought in to bolster their classics department.
With Quicksteps top classics talents, Niki Terpstra and Philippe Gilbert, now entering the twilights of their careers, it’s time for the young guns to step up and take hold of the monument winning mantle…
Classics Born and Bred
It’s no surprise that the young Frenchman is a natural on the cobblestones of Northern France, after all he did grow up in a small village close to the infamous Troisvilles sector of cobblestones. After racing on the rough pave around his home, Sénéchal quickly built up a tolerance to the stones akin to a veteran Belgian classics rider.
His big breakthrough ride would come at the 2011 junior Paris Roubaix, a race won by many current classics stars, including Geraint Thomas, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Jasper Stuyven. Sénéchal took the race in emphatic style, riding alone onto the boards of the Roubaix velodrome to take a victory not too dissimilar from Roubaix legends, Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen.
This talent was clearly picked up on early in his career by the Omega Pharma Quickstep team, signing him early in the 2012 season before loaning him out to their reserve squad, Etixx-iHNed for the 2013 season.
2013 proved to be a fruitful year for Sénéchal, two of his biggest wins coming on the Eastern European racing circuit. First was a win in Poland in the one day Memorial Henryka Lasaka race, the young Frenchman using his punchy sprint to best his two other breakaway compatriots.
His next victory came just weeks later, taking the overall classification of the UCI 2.2 Okolo Jiznich Cech, a stage race making up part of the UCI Europe Tour, a key objective for Pro Continental teams.
Two key victories on the European scene soon caught the eyes of French continental team, Cofidis. This was Sénéchal’s opportunity, a chance to finally ride the big one day races alongside the sports greatest riders.
The Cofidis Years
It took a year under the French outfit for Sénéchal to really start raking in the results, 6th on GC a the 4 days of Dunkirk his greatest accolade in 2014. Despite not taking any top 10s in the big classic races, he did finally get to race among the WT pros, taking respectable top 20 finishes in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke and Paris Tours.
After having spent a year thrown straight into the classics deep end, the young Frenchman tried his hand at the biggest race in pro cycling in 2015, Le Tour de France. Acting as a key part of Bouhanni’s leadout train, Sénéchal was soon given a carte blanche once his leader crashed out of the race as early as stage 5.
As well as gaining vital Grand Tour experience, Sénéchal’s classics talent went from strength to strength in 2015, recording his first top 20 at Paris Roubaix as well as a 19th place at the Gent-Wevelgem classic.
Arguably his best result of 2015 was his 3rd place podium at the Tro Bro Leon race, a hipster version of the infamous Paris Roubaix that trades the characteristic cobblestones for the legendary dirt and gravel roads of Finistère, Brittany.
His credibility in these tough classic races were soon backed up in the following season, a 3rd place in Le Samyn behind Scott Thwaites and Niki Terpstra. Like Tro Bro Leon, Le Samyn is another classic notorious for it’s difficulty and unrelenting parcours.
After breaking into the Paris Roubaix top 20 with a 17th in 2016, Sénéchal went a few places better in 2017, finishing the race in a very credible 12th place.
He also scored another top ten in one of his favourite stage races of the year, the 4 days of Dunkirk; a race notoriously won by the world’s top classics riders.
The Frenchman’s arc of progression soon caught the eyes of his original pro team, Quickstep; the Belgian outfit interested in re-signing their young cobbled talent.
The transfer was announced at the start of August, just after Sénéchal added another Tour de France appearance to his palamares. Soon the Frenchman would be heading home to his cobbled classic routes, this time as one of the main players in a team full of superstars…
What does 2018 hold?
Despite the 2017/2018 transfer window being filled with some of the sport’s biggest names, Sénéchal’s name remained at the tip of a lot of expert’s lips, his potential outshining the proven results of many other riders.
Still only 24 years of age, many believe that Sénéchal has the potential to grow into one of the greats of the sports, potentially rivaling records set by his former teammate, Tom Boonen.
Unlike many classic rouleurs, Sénéchal possesses a punchy sprint and can rival some of the quickest in a reduced dash to the line. He may not be a bunch sprinter at heart, but when it comes to dropping his rivals at the drop of a pedal, Sénéchal is faster than most.
The real results that stand out in his young palamares are the podium positions at Le Samyn and Tro Bro Leon. Neither are top UCI WT classic races, but they are arguably much tougher events, poor road surfaces and weather often dictating whether the races are even held let alone raced on.
The young Frenchman is clearly one of the hard men of the peloton, channeling Lance Armstrong’s infamous quote of, “Love the rain because other’s hate it…”
He certainly has the potential to do big things in 2018, but whether Quickstep allow him to have a long leash is a different matter. Despite the Belgian outfit losing some of it’s biggest stars in 2017, there is still a strict pecking order for the classics that Sénéchal now sees himself at the bottom of.
Gilbert and Terpstra will head the team in Roubaix and Flanders, Stybar their most likely successors followed by 2017 revelation Yves Lampaert. Sénéchal will likely see himself filling in Matteo Trentin’s role, acting as the team’s third win option as well as a vital domestique for when the race reaches it’s business end.
2018 will certainly prove a learning curve for the young Frenchman, whilst he may be accustomed to the team staff and some teammates, he’ll be racing for one of the greatest classics teams in a generation and will be put under immense pressure as a result.
This shouldn’t bother him too much however, if there’s one thing Sénéchal has over many others, it’s confidence and experience. Whilst he may not have the prestigious results to speak of, he has years of hard grind on the parcours that make up the very race he is desperate to win.
Some may train years to master the cobbles of Roubaix, very few have spent a lifetime on it…
Where will he fit into the Quickstep dynamic? Will likely fill in for Matteo Trentin and act as a wildcard for when the classic races inevitably explode.
Will he take a big victory in 2018? With races like classics it’s really hard to tell but I doubt he’ll take any big monument victories. A win in Le Samyn or Tro Bro Leon where he could potentially lead Quickstep may be the most likely result for Sénéchal next year.
Is this a transfer that needed to happen? YES YES YES! One of my favourites of the 2018 window, there’s nothing I love more than a classics star returning to his roots.
What do you guys think of the Sénéchal to Quickstep transfer? Make sure to leave a comment down below! If you’ve enjoyed this Transfer Talk article, make sure to routinely check the website and Twitter page so you don’t miss out on the next one!