The Deceuninck - Quick-Step team have gathered in Calpe, Spain for a final training camp ahead of the 2019 season, and the Belgian WorldTour team held their official team presentation on Tuesday.
Team manager Patrick Lefevere welcomed new partner, Deceuninck, the Belgian window manufacturer that came on board as title sponsor after a long search for fresh investment.
Many of the 25 riders that will make up the so-called 'Wolfpack' were also invited onto the stage to share their hopes for the coming season. They have the unenviable task of trying to match the most successful season in the team's history after the Belgian team won 73 races last season. Absent were the Deceuninck - Quick-Step riders already in Australia for the Tour Down Under, including sprinter Elia Viviani.
"2018 was a fantastic season for us, but it was also a tough year," Lefevere acknowledged. "Winning means you can party, but winning also costs money. We were looking for sponsors during the season but the puzzle came together and here we are."
The period of uncertainty over finances saw lead sprinter Fernando Gaviria leave the team, while Tour of Flanders champion Niki Terpstra moved to Direct Energie. The loss of Gaviria is likely to be softened by the presence of Alvaro Hodeg and Fabio Jakobsen, both of whom enjoyed stellar neo-pro sprint campaigns in 2018, while Viviani was the most successful sprinter in the peloton last year.
As for Terpstra, Quick-Step have always had multiple options in the Classics, and Belgian champion Yves Lampaert will be expected to step up. There should be more opportunities for Zdenek Stybar, while Philippe Gilbert continues his quest to complete the set of all five Monuments. The team's other one-day leaders are Julian Alaphilippe, who had a breakthrough season with two stage wins and the polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France, along La Flèche Wallonne, and Bob Jungels, who will ride the cobbled classics this year.
Jungels will also lead the team at the Giro d'Italia, while Enric Mas, off the back of his Vuelta a España podium in 2018, will target the general classification at the Tour de France.
Despite the high-profile departures, there was one arrival that has attracted just as much attention. Remco Evenepoel joins the team at the tender age of 18, having won both the junior road race and time trial titles at the World Championships in September. Judging by the cameras that trailed his every move, is already a star.
"We have lost some riders but that's cycling it's a business, you lose some and you gain some," Lefevere said.
"We cannot say we are going to do the same as in 2019. We always say we are going to do our best, but we're not going to say that the team that has won the most in the last six years isn't going to be a winning team anymore. We want to win and we want to be a team of quality."
Along with Deceuninck, Lefevere invited his whole band of sponsors onto the stage to talk about their involvement. Despite the name change, it's a familiar feel for the Belgian team, with few changes to the design of their blue kit.
The Specialized bikes now carry a lick of blue paint, while it was also revealed that the whole team will be racing exclusively on disc brakes throughout the season.
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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