The Quick.Step Cycling Team had its presentation on Monday in Tielt, Belgium. The squad, which is managed by Patrick Lefevere, is coming off a big 2004 where it won 48 UCI races (the most of any team) and finished seventh in the UCI teams rankings. Despite the retirements of Richard Virenque and Johan Museeuw last season, the team has plenty of firepower for 2005, particularly in the one day classics and the short stage races.
Olympic and World Cup Champion Paolo Bettini, winner of nine races last year, will once again be at the top of the list for the one day classics, being joined by the young superstar Tom Boonen, who won 20 races in 2004 including Gent-Wevelgem and two stages in the Tour. 25 year old dual World Time Trial Champion Michael Rogers will be looking to show the rainbow stripes in a few races in 2005, while Nick Nuyens, who won Paris-Brussels, and Patrik Sinkewitz, who took out the Deutschland Tour, are both young talents who are very much on the rise.
As the 26 man team faces the ProTour for the first time, there have been nine new riders added. Belgians Rik Verbrugghe, Sebastien Rosseler, Kevin De and Wouter Weylandt will be joined by Italian champion Cristian Moreni, Petacchi's leadout man Guido Trenti, the talented Filippo Pozzato, Dutchman Marc Lotz and neo-pro and Danish cyclist of the year Mads Christensen.
The team will kick off in Australia on January 18 with the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, riding a typical early season program that focuses on the classics as well as Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. Quick.Step will then race the Giro d'Italia, Tours of Romandy and Switzerland, Volta a Catalunya, Dauphiné Libéré and of course the Tour de France.
Bettini will start his season on February 6 with the Mallorca Challenge, and race Het Volk, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo, Tour of Flanders, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Giro d'Italia, Tour de Suisse and the Italian championships, although he will not do the Tour de France.
Tom Boonen will start on January 29 with the Doha International GP, before riding the Tour of Qatar, Het Volk, Paris-Nice, Milano-Sanremo, Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem, Paris-Roubaix and the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen, before taking a break and coming back in the Tour de Picardie in May and building up towards the Tour de France.
Michael Rogers will start in the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under and follow an Italian program of short stage races, taking a six week break at the end of March before resuming with the Volta a Catalunya, Tour de Suisse and Tour de France.
Nick Nuyens will race a similar program to Tom Boonen, although he will also do some of the hillier classics in April, including Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He is down for the Giro d'Italia but not the Tour de France.
Patrik Sinkewitz will start in Mallorca with Bettini, then follow an Italian program but include three classics: Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He will do the Tour de Romandie, Volta a Catalunya and Tour de Suisse before the Tour de France.
Filippo Pozzato will be in Australia for the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, then return home to ride the G.P. Costa degli Etruschi, Tour Méditerranéen, Het Volk, Tirreno-Adriatico, most of the spring classics, then the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France.
Quick.Step 2005 includes 26 riders from seven different nations. The average age of the athletes is 26.8 years. The youngest team member is Wouter Weylandt (who will be 21 on September 27), the oldest team member is Davide Bramati (who will be 37 on the June 27). The team has six directeur sportifs, three doctors, one PR person, one press officer, five mechanics, seven masseuses and one bus driver, and employs a total of 52 people.
The team's transport system is made up of 15 vehicles: one bus, one camper, two lorries, five MPV's, five cars and one berlina.
What it takes to run a team for a season: 110 bikes, 125 pairs of wheels, 1,300 inner tubes, 7,000 helmets, 400 gloves, 400 pairs of socks, 300 racing shorts, 450 jerseys, 20,000 water bottles, 5,000 feed bags, 500 litres of olive oil, 129 kg parmesan cheese, 1,000 kg of pasta.