Marc Coucke (manager Omega Pharma, sponsor of Davitamon-Lotto) is very happy with his team's performances, which have netted three stage wins and the green jersey, courtesy of sprinter Robbie McEwen. "I've watched it all on TV, haven't missed too many seconds of it so far," he told Sporza radio on Saturday. "It was fantastic of course. The tension fell away after the first win; you know when it doesn't come quickly it gets annoying. Then you start to concentrate on the yellow and green jersey. It's a luxury situation to be in. "The wins have been impressive. In the sprints Robbie looked like sitting too far, but then you saw that TGV coming; I thought it looked like a new Olympic discipline in cycling, rarely seen! The broad shoulders of Steegmans and then Robbie sitting in his wheel. This is exceptional.
"Robbie was one of the very first riders whose contract we prolonged 'till 2008, for the maximum we could give. If we have enough money, then we'll keep Steegmans. I think he'd like to stay with us, but it's going to be tough, as we made a few extra efforts financially already. We gave Cadel a contract till 2008 also - he's important too in the mountains - so we have to calculate things and make priorities.
"What Gert has done they can't take away anymore, so that's good. It is fantastic for the team, but it will raise his price too. And we have to admit that Robbie by himself is almost a team. Of course it was impressive what Gert has shown. If he could live with working for Robbie and do his own thing in the smaller races it would be great. We might have someone to follow in Robbie's footsteps later if he stays. We need a new sprinter for 2009, as Robbie won't ride forever. But the budget gives the problem. Before the tour we said, we'll have to let Gert go, and during this Tour his value has increased even. But that is also the case for us; look, Gert has the right mentality, riding like he did without certainty about his job for next year still, he's giving it all. We'll have to get together with the National Lottery and Brustor and talk about it. To continue with him would be nice.
"We expect more and more from Cadel as days pass. With the big names getting eliminated out of the Tour, things are exciting. There's 7 to 8 riders who can win the Tour this year and Cadel is one of them. Just that thought makes us nervous. It's a big thing for our team.
"You can dream when you're in sports, you have to go for it; we're going for green and yellow. Of course it will be hard to accomplish. But when you're in the winning mood, anything is possible. This is a Tour which could give DVL the biggest result ever so we have to go all out for it. Cadel has a realistic chance of finishing top 5. We have the right to dream and on the podium in Paris we can have two people; a top 3 spot for Cadel and green for Robbie.
"The press and public in Belgium has been spoiled this year. There's too much fuss about Boonen winning a sprint. I you look at it, with Tom Boonen in the yellow in the first week, the Belgian public is still not satisfied, while Voeckler is still a hero in France for wearing it years ago!
DVL don't have to make up for a weaker spring season, but for our team, in the Tour, we are riding a long way above our financial value. What happened in the spring with Boonen for Belgian cycling was exceptional, and it is that way for our team in the Tour. It's exceptional what is happening right now.
What these wins mean for the sponsors is great, economically that is. I mean, a win in Gent-Wevelgem isn't mentioned on CNN, the wins in the Tour are; so publicity-wise these results in the tour are fantastic. Davitamon is known in the whole of Europe now; we'll have over €25 million turn-over with Davitamon alone! The impact of it on the company Omega-Pharma is simply amazing. You only get that kind of positive reaction with, for example, a win in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen and a Paris-Roubaix. Hopefully we'll keep having great results till Paris."
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