The Omega Pharma-Quickstep team has finalized its team for the 100th Tour de France, which begins in Corisca on June 29. Leading the team in its goal of winning stages is sprinter Mark Cavendish, who has already indicated he wants to experience the glory of wearing the race's yellow leader's jersey, something which he has never had in the Tour. He will also hope to add to his tally of 23 Tour de France stage victories and 41 Grand Tour stage wins in total.
"Cav is there to try and win stages, and of course one of the big goals of Mark is to go for the yellow jersey on the first day," Rolf Aldag, the team's sport and development manager said. The first stage in Corsica is pan-flat, and perfectly suited for the sprinters, but Cavendish will be relying on a well-oiled lead-out train to get to the finish line first on the hectic opening stage.
"Mark will be able to count on the same leadout of the Giro d'Italia. They are already tested in race situations and will be ready again. Steegmans will be the last man, and Matteo Trentin will be the second to last man. But, all the team will be committed with Mark when the stage will fit his characteristics. Tony Martin will be there to ride to the 'Flamme Rouge' on the flat stages. He will bring Matteo, Gert and Cav into the best position possible in the final kilometer."
Lacking a top rider for the general classification, the team will instead put its focus on winning stages, and there are plenty of days which can suit other riders in the team, in particular Martin, the reigning world time trial champion, will also have more than one opportunity to net a stage win for the team.
"Tony will also be there to get his chances at the time trials," Aldag said. "The first ITT will be a little more appropriate for his skills. The second will be difficult, but for sure he will still try his best. He will also be an important piece to our TTT as he is the world champion of this discipline, so we will rely on his strength to lead us during this stage."
As expected, Tom Boonen will not be joining the team in France. He has stated he may never race the Tour again.
Making his debut in the race is Michal Kwiatkowski, 23, who has already impressed with top performances in Tirreno-Adriatico, Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne. "Kwiatkowski is the youngest guy of the team," Aldag said. "We decided to bring him because it's time to get this kind of experience, to try and wear the white jersey even for a limited time. It will be a kind of dream for him and of course a great achievement for the team."
Also in the team are two French riders, Sylvain Chavanel and Jerome Pineau, along with Niki Terpstra, Peter Velits and Kevin De Weert.
Team manager Patrick Lefevere said the OPQS line-up is "one of the best teams in the entire field" for the Tour. "With seven stages for the sprinters, one team time trial and two individual time trials, we can be protagonists in almost half the stages in the Tour. That is without counting riders like Chavanel and Terpstra, who have the ability to play a role in medium mountain stages.
"The goals of the team are to try to win a few stages, be protagonists, and be a presence. ... I think when it comes to OPQS, we've shown how unique riders can fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Our Tour de France selection features eight nationalities of nine riders. We are an example of the globalization of cycling, and have already proven that such diversity can come together as a cohesive unit. We missed the victory at the Tour in the last few years. We really want to go for it and then see on the road day-by-day what kind of opportunities we can have."
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