1T4I unveils young squad with big ambition

Dutch ProContinental team 1t4i unveiled its 24-man and 10-woman squad at its Spanish training base today, with the team’s owner and general director, Iwan Spekenbrink promising 2012 would be the year it “steps up to the top level of the sport.”

The team, which used to be known as Skil-Shimano won 30 races last year, mostly through revelatory neopro, Marcel Kittel, who took a stage at the Vuelta a España among 17 victories. He remains on the squad along with sprint and Classics specialist Tom Veelers.

They have been joined by another exciting young talent, John Degenkolb who won a brace of stages at the Critérium du Dauphiné in his first professional year, and his HTC-Highroad teammate, Patrick Gretsch. Other new additions include Tom Stamsnijder and Dominic Klemme from Leopard Trek. Tom Dumoulin and Ramon Sinkeldam step up from the Rabobank Continental Team.

Addy Engels, who retired at the end of 2011 and holds the Dutch record for Giro d’Italia participations, joins the team as a sports director. His race craft should be a valuable resource for the squad.

The team’s main goal for the year is an invitation to the Tour de France and given the team’s performance at the Vuelta last year, many believe that wildcard entry will be forthcoming. Entry to the Vuelta also looks good and the race director Javier Guillén attended the launch near Altea on the Spanish coast.

Kittel who will begin his campaign at the Etoile de Bességes stage race in February, said he hoped to add more quality victories to volume this year. He said: “I’m very confident that we will have a very good season and I hope I will improve again in training and the sprints…I think the big goal for me in 2012 is to increase quality as well as success.

“I’m very excited for the coming year. Where it comes to races where I want to do well, I want to do one grand tour and I want to win again a stage there – that’s the big goal for me and the team.”

Degenkolb who was widely courted by other teams after the demise of HTC-Highroad chose 1T4I because it had similar qualities to the defunct American squad, he said.

“It’s kind of similar to last year – the team and the staff are always trying to innovate and get better and better and I’m really sure the team is growing up this next year. I want to support it on its way to joining the WorldTour.”

The average age of the men’s squad is 24, compared to roughly 26 years for the rest of the pro-peloton.

“We believe it is good to have the future of the sport.” said Spekenbrink. “We are a substantially bigger team and this is the year we step up the top level of cycling. Our perfect race programme would be the Classics, two grand tours and the Worlds, but of course it depends on the plans of the organisers,” he said.

The women of 1t4i

The women's squad is composed entirely of Dutch riders. Leaders Amy Pieters and Regina Bruins are joined by Adrie Visser from the HTC-Highroad team, which will be managed by Sharon Van Essen.

Pieters said she was very enthusiastic by the significant change within the team. “It’s very exciting this year and I hope I will learn a lot – I’m sure the team will be a lot stronger than last year.” Though her goals revolve around track success at the Olympics in London, the first half of her season will be focused on the road she said.

The squad name, 1T4I, standing for team spirit, inspiration, integrity, improvement and innovation will be replaced at the end of March by a major multinational sponsor, says Spekenbrink. He said the delay, which means another team livery change, is to coincide with the sponsor’s marketing plan. Last year’s sponsor, Skil, remains a presence on the ladies’ team and will be dual sponsor with the as yet unknown multinational.

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