It may still be sunny and warm at the Vuelta a España, and the European road race season does not end for another month, but the European cyclo-cross season begins this weekend with the Steenbergcross race in Erpe Mere.
On Thursday the Telenet-Fideas team held its official presentation at the new headquarters of bike sponsor Ridley in Belgium and again hopes to dominate the off-road season with world champion Zdenek Stybar, veteran Bart Wellens and emerging talents Kevin Pauwels and Tom Meeusen.
Stybar won the world title at home in the Czech Republic at the end of January and dominated the World Cup and Superprestige series. He and the rest of the Telenet-Fidea team has been training at altitude in St. Moritz and road racing in the Tour of Slovakia, but are now ready to get their tyres dirty and kick off the season.
Stybar wore a subtly rainbow striped-tie during the team presentation but claimed he does not feel under pressure to repeat his amazingly successful season.
"The rainbow always brings some pressure with it, but I'm expecting that and I'm trying to use it to give myself extra motivation this season to win," he told Cyclingnews.
"The goals have been set very high after last year. I don’t want a worse season than last year but it will be almost impossible, so I will try to do as well as I can. I want to honour the rainbow jersey."
"I'm going to try and be up there at the start of the season but I don’t want to be in absolutely top shape just yet. Despite what everybody thinks, the cyclo-cross season last six months and if you are too good in the beginning now, you won’t have the power in January and February when it really matters."
"I think we've got a good basic condition now we'll work on our competition rhythm in the early races. Training in St. Moritz and then racing in Slovakia was good."
Stybar will be 25 in December and is leading a new generation of 'cross riders that includes teammates Pauwels and Meeusen. However he expects veteran team captain and two-time world champion Bart Wellens to also be back to his best, as the Telenet-Fidea team tries to dominate the highly competitive Belgian cyclo-cross scene.
"Last year we lost Bart Wellens due to illness but I think he's going to be back and have a great season this year. We've got a good team. It's not always important to have teammates to help you in races but some times it plays a role. It's also important to know they are there, watching your back."
The Telenet-Fidea team for 2010:
Bart Wellens, Zdenek Stybar, Tom Meeusen, Kevin Pauwels, Robert Gavenda, Vincent Baestaens, Corne Van Kessel, Petr Dlask, Rob Peeters, Micki Van Empel, Arnaud Grand, Wouter Van Mechelen and Karel Hnik.