Serge Pauwels is impressed by what he's seen of his new team, Sky. In London for the squad's presentation on Monday, the 26-year-old told Cyclingnews he is confident the squad will be an ideal place for him to develop his career, which looks set to include a start at the Tour de France.
"It was impressive," said Pauwels of his team's presentation. "It's what you expect from this team. So far it's just been really impressive; every detail covered. Everything is geared towards giving us, as riders, the best chance possible."
For the second consecutive year Pauwels will start his season with a team new to the peloton. His transfer to the British squad - his first ProTour squad - follows a consistent season with Cervélo Test Team, where he was given the opportunity to ride his first grand tour at the Giro d'Italia. This year however, he is clear about which race will form the crux of his season.
"The plan is to do the Tour de France in 2010 and it will be my main objective," he said. "[Bradley] Wiggins will be a favourite and he'll be the focus of the team. My goal will be to help him achieve another good general classification finish."
Pauwels' performance at the 2009 Giro will no doubt give Wiggins confidence that he'll be able to count on solid support from his Belgian teammate come July. Although Pauwels finished 33rd overall, it was his sacrifice of his own chances of success on the race's 15th stage to assist then-captain, Carlos Sastre, that drew most attention and established his reputation as a dependable colleague.
For Pauwels, too, the race was also a confirmation of his own ability and an important touchstone in the development of his now five year professional career.
"Everyone says the season after your first grand tour you're a much stronger rider. I think for me it's been the mental strength that I've probably gained the most," he said. "I did so well in the Giro [d'Italia] last year and it's just given me a lot more self-confidence."
Pauwels will join his teammates at the team's first official training camp this week in Valencia, Spain this before he commences a busy early season programme that will see him race a schedule of shorter stage races prior to the Ardennes Classics.
"I'm hoping to start well at Ruta Del Sol, that'll be my first race," he said. "Then a few days later I'll begin Paris-Nice. I'll do Liège[-Bastogne - Liège] and Flèche Wallonne, as well as Pays Basque and Criterium International."
Though Team Sky has drawn its roster with riders from 11 different nations, Pauwels is the sole Belgian on the 26-man squad. It mirrors the situation he found himself in last year at Cervélo. Despite forming part of a minority of central and western European riders at Sky, Pauwels said there was no coincidence in his teams for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
"That's a [conscious] choice, to be part of an international team," he said. "At this point in my career I believe I can learn more from international riders. I'm pleased to be part of the environment at Team Sky."