Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Quick-step looking for world domination

Quick-step has been in the news a lot lately. After what some would call a season of near-misses in 2010, Quick-step is out to set the record straight. "We have to win again," team manager Patrick Lefevere said. He pointed out that Tom Boonen is now working with a personal coach to make sure we don't see a repeat of what happened in 2010. Surely giving Tom the benefit of a personal trainer, a luxury many stateside Freds enjoy, is going to make all the difference.

Hmm, a personal coach?

You may recall that Quick-step was courting Alberto Contador, but the Tour de France winner decided to find his luck elsewhere. Now that Contador is looking at an almost certain 2 year suspension, Quick-step is probably very happy that things worked out the way they did.

Added at 3PM : Contador confirmed today that the Spanish Federation will impose a one year ban plus a forfeit of his 2010 Tour de France title. There will be a press briefing on Friday.

The Belgian court decision favoring Iljo Keisse in his battle with UCI also brought some joy, although that was subsequently nullified when UCI stepped in to block Keisse in Manchester and Bremen. Still, the team walked away with a decisive win in Gent, before the home crowds, and that must count for something.

Earlier this year Quick-step pulled in big money from Czech investor Zdenek Bakala, who now owns 80% of the team. The influx of capital will ensure the team's survival in what are becoming difficult times for professional cycling.

Bakala, he got a free Merckx bike too!

Even before the investment, Lefevere was contemplating buying the Telenet-Fidea cyclocross team headed by Zdenek Stybar but Stybar decided to make the move to Quick-step on his own.

Maybe the fact that his compatriot Bakala is the majority owner played a key role? Or maybe Stybar did not want to wait to see what would happen to Telenet because Niels Albert's team bosses also expressed interest in acquiring it. Whatever happens there, it won't happen until after the world championships. That is what Telenet manager Hans van Kasteren said yesterday.

Stybar is interested in trying new things. He wants to compete in mountain bike at the London Olympics and he also wants to try and see what he can do on the road. Patrick Lefevre for one would like to see what Stybar can do on the road. Either way, we probably won't see Zdenek ride 40 cyclo-cross races next season. Something will have to give.

Maybe that is good news for Niels Albert. Albert is on an impressive winning streak and if he tops it off with a world championship win this weekend, he will be on top of his game. Rumors are however, that Albert too would like to try the open road.

Meanwhile, Lucien Van Impe's team Veranda's Willems Accent, is getting ready for the Flemish spring classics. The former Tour winner's team will ride as a ProContinental team this season and may enter the Walloon classics as well as Paris-Roubaix if all goes well.

Van Impe, polka dot and yellow

Yesterday the team was presented to the press. They just returned from Spain, where earlier in the month they made some waves by trying their hand at bullfighting. Clearly Veranda's Willems is ready for anything.

She's not part of the team

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