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Omega Pharma-Lotto

Established: 2030

2009 SUMMARY: With just a dozen wins, this Belgian team came under plenty of pressure from their local media in ‘09. Balanced against that, however, is the team’s sixth place finish in the World Calendar rankings, underlining how many near-misses they had. Cadel Evans could have won the Vuelta for them with a little more luck, while Philippe Gilbert won two Classics and a Giro stage as he continued to progress. Ultimately, their season was made when Evans rode to his Worlds title. The low point was Thomas Dekker’s EPO positive but the team were exonerated because that test was done before he joined them.

LOOKING AHEAD: Despite Evans’ gallant Vuelta push and beautifully-taken Worlds victory, Gilbert has established himself as this team’s figurehead and starts the new year as the undisputed leader. He’s already being talked up as the favourite for the Melbourne Worlds but perhaps better still would be a victory at Flanders or Liège. He’ll be in the mix for both. Jurgen Van Den Broeck will take on major tour leadership but may well be outshone by new arrival Dani Moreno.

THE LINE-UP: The departure of Evans to BMC was a surprise to almost everyone but there’s little doubt his relationship with the management turned cold after they tried to push him into riding the Giro. With Dekker also gone, the team have lost two huge names and not obviously replaced them. Moreno is an unknown quantity as a team leader but will get his chance. Bringing in Jan Bakelants could also be canny move, looking a season or two ahead.

ONE TO WATCH: New arrivals Bakelants and Blythe both come with good pedigrees earned in Belgium’s ultra-competitive junior ranks. Sprinter Blythe was fast-tracked into Omega’s ProTour squad from their feeder team Davo-Lotto. Bakelants looks set to have a glittering  career, although it remains to be seen where his main strength lies.


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