Omega Pharma-QuickStep had named a solid line-up for the Tour de France as it bids to make a serious impact on the general classification after a startling run of spring form that saw the team dominate the cobbled classics.
Although he requested not to be considered for the United States Olympic team, Levi Leipheimer will lead Omega Pharma-QuickStep in July. The veteran American was a new arrival at the squad from RadioShack in the off-season and after a crash-interrupted opening to the campaign, he showed his form is on the up with a third-place finish at the Tour de Suisse.
Another new signing, Peter Velits, will also be aiming to produce a solid performance over the three weeks. A podium finisher at the 2010 Vuelta a España, the Slovak was impressive in winning the Tour of Oman in February after a 2011 campaign hampered by a nagging knee injury.
Velits’ fellow arrival from HTC-Highroad, Tony Martin, is also in the line-up and world time trial champion is among the favourites to don the first yellow jersey of the race after the Liège prologue. Indeed, with two long time trials to follow later in the race, Martin could make an impact on the overall standings himself, although he has long insisted that his priority is to win the Tour’s time trials and prepare for the same event at the London 2012 Olympics.
“In the time trials we can count on Levi and the undeniable skills of Tony Martin, who will be in his element with more than 100 kilometres on the schedule,” said team manager Patrick Lefevere.
Sylvain Chavanel and Jerome Pineau are perennial animators of the Tour and the attacking French duo will be given licence to create their own opportunities throughout the race, along with Dries Devenyns.
“For the individual stages we will have high-calibre athletes like Sylvain Chavanel, a natural attacker, as well as Dries Devenyns,” said Lefevere. “We will also see Jerome Pineau at the start line, an athlete who really knows how to play his cards, as well as how to be a perfect team player when the occasion calls for it.”
The squad is completed by rouleurs Stijn Vandenbergh and Bert Grabsch, and climber Kevin De Weert, who finished 13th in Paris last year.
As had been previously announced, Tom Boonen forgoes the Tour de France this time around and will instead race the Tour de Pologne as preparation for the London 2012 Olympics.
“Overall, the formation is well balanced and they will be able to stand out in the individual stages as well as in the general classification,” said Lefevere.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep team for the Tour de France: Sylvain Chavanel, Kevin De Weert, Dries Devenyns, Bert Grabsch, Levi Leipheimer, Tony Martin, Jerome Pineau, Stijn Vandenbergh, Peter Velits.