Quickstep once again strengthened for the classics

Lefevere doesn't want grand tour win at cost of ethics

By Brecht Decaluwé

The Belgian Quickstep – Innergetic formation presented their line-up for the upcoming season in Kortrijk. Twenty nine riders and ten managers showed up on the catwalk during a relatively formal event. The experienced Belgian general manager, Patrick Lefevere, presented the three main sponsors at the audience and Mike Sinyard from Specialized was there to explain why they are the new bike supplier of the team.

"We know that Quickstep is the best team in the world and we can supply them with the best product in the world; that should allow them to achieve their goals," Sinyard said.

Lefevere talked about the ambitions for 2007, "every year is another challenge to perform as well as last year. Our team has some new faces but our ambitions stay the same." Patrick Lefevere presented all his riders one by one, and ending an impressive bunch of quality riders with their new world champion Paolo Bettini.

The Belgian asked the Italian what he would do if he would be alone in front during the final of the Tour of Flanders. The world champion joked, "I'd better make sure we don't have a sprint." A few moments before Lefevere had asked the same to Tom Boonen, the world champion of 2005. Boonen joked first, "I'll ride as hard as possible," but then said, "We should be honest and then the strongest rider will win."

The Belgian classics specialist expressed his desire to win the Tour of Flanders once again this year. "Not many riders succeeded in winning the Tour of Flanders for three years in a row," Boonen said. Actually only one rider succeeded in this impressive triple: the Italian legend Fiorenzo Magni (1949-1951). (Read Cyclingnews' Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen news features.)

Once again the team appears to be stronger than the year before, even though good riders like Filippo Pozzato and Nick Nuyens have left the team. With Gert Steegmans the team lured the man who catapulted Robbie McEwen's towards three stage wins in this year's Tour de France. Lefevere commented on his transfer, "he has been riding in our U23 team in the past and I always kept an eye on him. After a stage in the Tour of Belgium everybody from our team got beaten by him alone and in the Tour de France we saw what he could do for us."

With Peter Van Petegem Quickstep has got a very experienced rider who should be able to assist Boonen deep into the final of the April classics. "We negotiated almost every season with Van Petegem in the past and finally he signed for us. I thought it was sad to see how he was treated last year. With him we've got a guy who can do it if something goes wrong with Boonen," Lefevere explained. Giovanni Visconti and Mauro Facci are the new guys who should be able to help Bettini when the roads are going uphill.

Young guns like Dmitry Grabovskiy, Giovanni Visconti but especially Kevin Seeldraeyers are offered the time to grow into the riders they want to be. "In our team Seeldraeyers will be able to work quietly on his future; working on what he's good in: climbing. He should be able to show himself in the Dauphiné Libéré or the Tour of Romandie when his time has arrived," Lefevere said.

A remarkable new face was Carlos Barredo, a rider who came over from the Astana team. Barredo, who won a stage in the 2006 Jacobs's Creek Tour Down Under, is excited to learn from the team's one-day riders. Lefevere explained he signed the Spanish rider because Active Bay released their riders and Barredo was not named at all in the Operación Puerto.

Lefevere is not no longer expecting a Grand Tour win. "Maybe we can get a top five with Garate, if everything goes well," Lefevere said. "I know that we will not find a grand tour winner between now and 2008, but if there's a future left for our team after 2008 then I will not give up my dream to win the Tour." The Belgian manager ended with a statement about winning grand tours. "I want to win the Tour but not at all costs; not at cost of the ethics."

The 2007 Quickstep – Innergetic line-up: Serge Baguet (37 years-old), Carlos Barredo (25), Paolo Bettini (32), Tom Boonen (26), Wilfried Cretskens (30), Steven De Jongh (33), Addy Engels (29), Mauro Facci (24), Juan Manuel Gárate (30), Dmitry Grabovskiy (21), Kevin Hulsmans (28), Alessandro Proni (24), Bram Tankink (28), Sébastien Rosseler (25), Ivan Santaromita (22), Leonardo Scarselli (30), Hubert Schwab (24), Kevin Seeldraeyers (20), Gert Steegmans (26), Andrea Tonti (30), Matteo Tosatto (32), Jurgen Van de Walle (29), Kevin Van Impe (25), Peter Van Petegem (36), Cédric Vasseur (36), Geert Verheyen (33), Davide Viganò (22), Giovanni Visconti (23), Wouter Weylandt (22) and Maarten Wynants (24).

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