Omega Pharma-QuickStep unveiled their 2013 roster at the Eddy Merckx velodrome in Gent on Tuesday. Team boss Patrick Lefevere and money magnate Zdenek Bakala opened proceedings with both men outlining their plans to see the team become the world number one squad in 2013. Last season, the Belgian outfit claimed an astonishing 60 wins, with complete dominance in the cobbled Classics.
Like a perfectly executed lead-out, marquee signing Mark Cavendish was kept in the wings until the end of the presentation. Alongside the team’s talisman, Tom Boonen, the pair were relaxed yet confident, talking up their chances of success for the year ahead, while keen to stress that they would work with and not against each other.
Cavendish opened with one of his most rehearsed but always appreciated sound bites: praising the structure and team spirit he has walked into. In truth, Omega Pharma offer him the stability and backing he was lacking at Sky, where, after Bradley Wiggins' Tour de France success, his personal ambitions were always likely to suffer.
“I’ve always got along with the riders and admired this team,” Cavendish said.
“You ask a lot of young riders, especially the Classics riders who they’d want to join and they all say Omega Pharma-QuickStep. It’s a dominant team in cycling and it’s a team that’s steeped in the culture of cycling.
“I’m more than happy. I was little bit nervous coming into it but I didn’t need to be nervous. They’ve been really, really great. It’s not like going away with work mates, you’re going away and enjoying yourself.”
The Brit wasn’t the only star on show, along with Tom Boonen the team posses the world’s best time trialist in Tony Martin, who was asked to recount the team’s win in the world time trial championships last year.
“It was a really special week for me because the year had been quite bad for me. I had not much luck then suddenly the whole season turned around with the win in the team time trial championships it was super emotional. We'll never forget that moment. The whole team was a unit and everyone did what they could and we won the title together."
The biggest applause was always going to be saved for Boonen, though. Like Cavendish, he was quick to play down any speculation of rivalry, stressing that Cavendish added a new dynamic to the team. As well as praising the sprinter’s speed on the bike he also talked up his teammate’s mental strengths. Boonen also opened the door for a return to the Tour de France, possibly as Cavendish’s lead out man.
“It’s a big change in the team in the team and Patrick asked my thoughts on Mark coming. I think it’s a big improvement and we needed someone like Mark. He’s the best sprinter in the world and this is motivation for everyone on the team to work even harder. I think it will be perfect stimulation and we’ll work together.”