On Thursday, September 6, Belgian team Easypay presented its team for the upcoming cyclo-cross season at the building of the Oost Vlaanderen TV station AVS, just ahead of the first races the team will tackle. Its title sponsor, Easypay, is a software company specialising in payroll and other business management services. Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake was at the team launch to learn what the team is expecting from the 2007-2008 season.
The Easypay team is one of the Belgian cyclo-cross dark horses for the year. An up-and-coming squad of five riders will head into the muddy part of the season - four of them in the 'elite without contract' category and one elite junior racer. Led by team manager Dirk Vanopbroeke, the team was formed out of a love for the sport of cyclo-cross by long-time 'cross fan and bike sponsor Ad van Empel.
Vanopbroeke, who manages the team on the side as a hobby, has quite a different career as a full time job. "Normally he drives Belgian ministers around in a limousine," explained van Empel. Vanopbroeke shows his enthusiasm for the team from start to finish, and has ambitious plans to start a Continental team next year, along the lines of well-known outfits like Chocolade Jacques, Fidea or Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner. To do so, he would have to double his rider headcount, as ten is the minimum required to even apply, but his riders definitely like the idea. Rider Dieter Vanthourenhout felt that "it would be good for us. It would provide us with more opportunities."
The Easypayers, who ride the same Empella bikes that have guided more than one rider to a World Championships title, will line up in the 2007-08 season with Kamiel Ausbuher, Dieter Vanthourenhout, Gert-Jan Opsomer, Tim Van Nuffel and Jerry Kallenfels.
Ausbuher, who hails from the Czech Republic, was World Champion in the junior ranks in 1993. Undoubtedly the most experienced on the team the young ones will look up to him and learn as much as they can throughout the season.
However, the team's most recent successes have been courtesy of young Dieter Vanthourenhout and Tim Van Nuffel. Vanthourenhout, the younger cousin to Sunweb ProJob's Sven Vanthourenhout, won five races last season, and Van Nuffel's last win was in July, which was during his preparation time. While doing road racing to get in shape, he managed to win an event here and there and showed he is dedicated throughout the year. Gert-Jan Opsomer, who also has already had some good results, and Jerry Kallenfels, the junior on the team, complete the team.
The main targets of the team will be the Superprestige and GvA races, but the Belgian national championships will be on everyone's mind even though they realize there is tough competition ahead. "Niels Albert will be hard to beat," said Vanthourenhout.
The team's bicycle sponsor, Empella, had the company's founder, Ad van Empel, on hand for the launch. Van Empel started the line of Empella bikes 25 years ago, and while he doesn't ride himself, he always enjoyed watching bike races and noticed that he could help racers become faster by improving positioning, material and other things he had an eye for.