Etixx–QuickStep held its official team presentation at the Gent velodrome on Wednesday night, with Mark Cavendish, Tom Boonen, Tony Martin, and world champion Michal Kwiatkowski, along with many other riders, racing against each other in front of hundreds of fans.
Cavendish used his sprinting speed and track skills to emerge as the overall winner of the evening's racing. The Manxman and Kwiatowski are about to travel to Argentina for their season debut at the Tour de San Luis, which begins on Monday.
"I don't think there's another team in the peloton that does a race as a team presentation," Cavendish said in a statement from the team.
"It shows the Belgian roots of Etixx–Quick-Step. I think it's really entertaining that our sponsors, their guests, and fans can come here and watch a bike race instead of us just standing and talking. It's really nice, I think it integrates well, and it is as much fun for the riders as it is for the crowd. I think it gives the public another event to see, which is bike racers racing bikes. We're all competitive guys but on and off the bike, even when we're racing against each other, we're a family. That's what makes Etixx–Quick-Step special."
Kwiatkowski admitted he was excited about his season as world champion.
“I'm super proud to show myself in front of the Belgian public as world champion and it's always great for me to race here. With these rainbow stripes I am proud and hope our sponsors and supporters are as excited as we are for the upcoming season. The supporters are always there for us on good days and bad days. So, it's really important to pay them back for their effort and spend time with them here,” he said.
“It's difficult for me to be competitive with the guys like Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, or Mark Cavendish on the track. They are such great riders in that discipline. For me, it's more fun. But I did race on the velodrome as a junior, so it's always nice to be back here. Now after two training camps, the group has come together with good spirit and we are really motivated to start our racing schedule on the road next week."
Boonen's double spring objectives
Team owner Zdenek Bakala and Marc Coucke of Etixx also attended, wishing the team all the best for the 2015 season. Coucke joked about Boonen's double objectives for the spring.
"We want to thank Mr. Zdenek Bakala for all the help he has provided this team. Thanks to his help we can have this beautiful team here in Belgium. The sponsors are committed and really behind the team,” Coucke said.
“For us, the next year will be important. But we are sure the riders will answer the call with more great performances. Also, I have to say that with Tom Boonen and his longtime girlfriend expecting twins, that maybe Tom can add another pair of twins to his 2015 in April with the Classics.”
Boonen will not ride the Tour de San Luis so he can be present at the birth.
"I think it's a special team presentation. Not every team has the possibility to do this kind of thing, but as a Belgian team we train a lot here in Gent in the winter, two times a week. That is actually how the team came up with the idea for this kind of event and three years later, here we are with a big success,” Boonen said.
“Boys will be boys. Give them a bike and they want to go fast. That's a recipe for entertainment. The fans get really enthusiastic about it and for the riders it's also fun.”