International flavour adds to Belgian pedigree

By Bjorn Haake in Oostende, Belgium Silence-Lotto held its team presentation on Monday in Oostende,...

Silence-Lotto presents its 2009 team

By Bjorn Haake in Oostende, Belgium

Silence-Lotto held its team presentation on Monday in Oostende, Belgium. The 2009 team comprises 27 riders, with enough diversification to ensure the Belgian outfit can contest the Classics (with Thomas Dekker, Philippe Gilbert and Leif Hoste), sprints (Jürgen Roelandts and Greg van Avermaet) and general classification (Cadel Evans).

Jacques Vermeire and Marc Coucke led proceedings in a light-hearted manner. Vermeire is a Belgian comedian and actor while Coucke is the CEO of Omega Pharma, the company that produces a product called Silence, an anti-snoring remedy. Coucke noted that this year more riders cited their main motivation as supporting Cadel Evans; the Australian has taken second in the Tour de France the last two years.

Evans was presented with the bouquet of flowers he received on stage 10, when he donned his first-ever yellow jersey at Le Tour. "Next time, give the flowers some water," quipped Evans, as he saw the dried-up offering.

Jokes aside, the questions over the Australian's Giro participation were laid to rest, with Evans confirming that, "I won't do the Giro. The timing just doesn't fit." Instead, he'll stick with the programme of previous years and play a supporting role for the Classics crew.

New faces Thomas Dekker and Philippe Gilbert will join Leif Hoste to form a dangerous trio in the Ardennes Classics.

Gilbert reiterated his desire to win, saying, "When I line up at a race it doesn't matter what kind of jersey I am wearing. I am always motivated to win." Dekker, meanwhile, will fully concentrate on the spring races and later return the favour for Evans, helping him at the Tour. "But I expect the Tour to be a bit easier for us, with Astana there," he added.

A minute's silence

The event started out quietly, with a minute of silence for Friederik Nolf, who died in his sleep during the Tour of Qatar.

This didn't set the tone for the rest of the presentation, as Vermeire joked with the riders, while Greg Van Avermaet and Dekker played on Van Avermaet's appearance in Humo, a Belgian lifestyle magazine. This time the young sprinter left his clothes on however, something he didn't for the magazine last year (along with other Belgian male athletes).

After winning the sprinter's classification at last year's Vuelta a España in only his second as a professional, the 24-year-old explained that he definitely wanted to ride the Tour de France this season, but wasn't thinking about the points competition. "The green jersey in the Tour comes a little too early for me," he said.

The team will ride on Canyon bikes this season, which are developed in neighbouring Germany. There will be two different sets of road frames, with the regular version being light and stiff. A special frame for the Classics will add a comfort component.

The most international rider introduced during the evening was Briton Charly Wegelius, who was actually born in Finland. "But I live in Italy and now I work in Belgium," he explained. Wegelius came over from Italian team Liquigas, and represents the direction Silence-Lotto is now taking the team in its pursuit of success.

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