A part of HTC-Columbia's significant influx of talent for 2010, Slovakian twins Peter and Martin Velits say they are looking forward to the challenge and pressure of being part of one of the peloton's strongest teams as they target a strong start at the Spring Classics.
The Velits, 24, have made the move to the US-backed squad after two years with Germany's Milram and despite the efforts of their former employer to retain their services, the two opted for a fresh start at HTC.
"We got an offer from Milram too, but we were perhaps also looking for something new, a new challenge and maybe some bigger pressure for both of us," Slovakian road race champion Martin told Cyclingnews at the team's training camp in Majorca. "This is only the second camp we've had with the team, but we feel quite integrated already."
The brothers' comfort in their new surroundings is due to HTC's concerted effort to introduce riders new to the roster into the team environment as early as possible. The two began their introduction to the team in September, after sealing their contracts with the squad shortly after the 2009 Tour de France. It was a deal that had, in part, been facilitated by former-Milram teammate and now HTC advisor, Erik Zabel.
"It actually happened at the Tour [de France]. Erik came to us at the end of a stage and said the team was interested in signing us. We said, 'okay, speak to our agent Tony Rominger and we can discuss it', but it all happened pretty quickly so that by the end of the Tour it was pretty much done," said Peter, who rode the Tour, while Martin did no.
“We're looking forward to the racing, and as Martin said, it's a good feeling in this team."
Despite their biological proximity, the brothers will spend the opening months of the season in pursuit of different goals. Martin will focus on a predominantly Belgian programme, while Peter's schedule will include an all-Italian lead-up to Milan-Sanremo. They will, however, be reunited at the Ardennes Classics in April.
"I will head to Qatar and Oman and the first race I really want to be good at is Het Nieuwsblad, at the start of the Classics," said Martin. "I'll do the Flemish and the Ardennes Classics, Peter will only do the Ardennes Classics."
"I'll start at Majorca and Algarve for preparation, then head to Eroica, Tirenno and then Sanremo. I want to be good in this block, but I hope to carry that form into the Classics," said Peter, who finished 10th at Milan-Sanremo last year and is likely to prove a vital asset to Mark Cavendish's target of a second successive win.
"Every season we try to start the year in as good a condition as possible, at 100 per cent," added Martin. "After the Classics, at the end of April, we can then take a look back and assess what was good, what was bad and then set the new goals for the rest of the season."
For the brothers there is already one element of their move which could prove to have an impact on their potential success. "This team is also better for us because it is more international. Here the team language is English. We do speak German, but not as well as English, so in terms of communication within the team that is a big advantage," said Peter.
Despite their satisfaction in having remained on the same teams throughout their six-year professional careers, they are happy to admit that the situation is not a foregone conclusion.
"For us it's always good to be in the same team," said Peter. "It means we can share the moment, the training camps together and help each other, so I think we'll stay together as long as possible."
"But it's hard to say, because maybe after these two years at HTC-Columbia we might find that it's not in the interest of our individual careers to remain on the same team," said Martin. "If we get another opportunity to be together on the same team and both of us are happy with the situation we could continue this way, but we don't have to stay together."