Etixx – Quick-Step looking ahead to 2016
On a sunny day with nice temperatures, Calpe was the natural amphitheatre for the riders' traditional pre-season meeting with the press.
It was a busy, but enjoyable afternoon on the Costa Blanca for the team's cyclists and staff, as dozens of journalists attended the Etixx – Quick-Step training camp in Calpe to meet the cyclists and get to know more of their goals and expectations ahead of the new season which is due to start next week, in Australia. Seven of the squad's riders – David De La Cruz, Davide Martinelli, Pieter Serry, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Petr Vakoč, Martin Velits and Carlos Verona – are already in Oz, training for the 18th edition of the Tour Down Under, while Rodrigo Contreras, Fernando Gaviria and Maximiliano Richeze are preparing for the Tour de San Luis. Finally, another rider missing from Spain was Niki Terpstra, who is in the thick of action at the Six Days of Rotterdam, an event he won three times so far.
All the other cyclists of the team were present at the media day gathering – including newcomers Laurens De Plus Bob Jungels, Marcel Kittel and Daniel Martin – showing off their new colours in Calpe, where Etixx – Quick-Step returned for the second training camp of the winter, following the one which took place in Denia, last month. Besides the 65 European and US journalists, the media day was attended by the sponsors of the team, but also by the Belgian consul in Alicante.
As always, we embark on the new season with high hopes and big goals. This is the 14th season of Etixx – Quick-Step and we are still hungry for victories.
"We will go for quantity, but also for quality. Of course, we'll aim for the Classics, but we want to be competitive also in week-long stage races like Paris-Nice or Volta a Catalunya, and thanks to the arrival of Daniel Martin, we can do that. He is going to be a key rider for the team not only in stage races, but also in the Ardennes Classics, where we'll line-up a three-pronged squad, with him, Julian Alaphilippe and Bob Jungels. As for Marcel Kittel, we are very happy to have him with us. He worked hard during the winter with the sprint train and I can say that things are looking very promising ahead of the season and we are satisfied with the connection established between Kittel and his teammates", said Patrick Lefevere, the team's CEO, and the man for whom Etixx – Quick-Step is not just a team, but also a passion.
One of the best sprinters in the world, with 11 Grand Tour stage wins to his name, eight of which came in the Tour de France, Marcel Kittel is entering in his sixth season as pro and although he'll not make his debut until February, is eager to start racing and prove he's already integrated in the team: "We worked on the lead-out during the camp, we simulated sprint finishes, and things went really nice. We are coming closer as a team. I aim for a good and relaxed start, and I hope the team will click quickly for the sprints. This is the main priority for me at the moment. As for goals, these will revolve around the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. The pressure is a normal thing as a rider, but I can't complain. I'm just happy to be in this environment and show how motivated I am."
For seven-time Monument winner Tom Boonen, the goals are crystal clear, as was the case in the past years: come into top shape at the beginning of the Classics campaign and hope he'll have an injury-free year, after a crash in which he was involved in 2015 forced him to skip the cobbled one-day races: "I am very happy, especially as I've seen how things are progressing since the first training camp. If everything keeps going like this, then I'll have a good condition for the beginning of the season. I'll start in Valencia, then I will go in Algarve, and afterwards I'll line up for the opening week-end in Belgium. Of course, Flanders and Roubaix are my biggest objectives, because I love these races, which keep me motivated on the bike."
Last year, Zdenek Stybar was one of the key riders of Etixx – Quick-Step. The Czech came first in Strade Bianche and in stage 6 of the Tour de France, but also confirmed his potential for the Classics by being runner-up in Paris-Roubaix. What are his expectations now? "We did a good a good job with the trainings, everybody is satisfied. The goal is to stay healthy and in a very good condition throughout the season. My focus will be on the Spring Classics and I will work hard to be there in a top shape. Then I hope to be selected again for the Tour de France and fight for another stage victory", said the 30-year-old.
A proven winner, with impressive victories in Liège–Bastogne–Liège, Il Lombardia and Grand Tour stages, Daniel Martin will start the season in Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, before traveling to the Tour of Oman, where he'll polish his shape ahead of Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya, two races in which he'll look not only to do a good GC, but also to reach top shape for the Ardennes Classics: "I'm back in Calpe, but this time with my new family and all I can say is that the atmosphere in the team is really great. The first three days were really hard, but everybody's really fit and it's incredible to see how much they worked in order to have a strong start to the season. For this year, I want to win races and help my teammates take victories. I came to the best team in the world to do that, a team who won hundreds of races. The best years of my career are coming and I'm happy to enter in this period together with Etixx – Quick-Step."
Recently, Tony Martin has announced that in 2016 he will try his hand on the cobbles, without having a specific goal, and more to test himself in these races, in order to find out if he can return one day at the start of them as a contender: "I'm really interested in these races, because I want to set new goals and find new motivation, which is very important in my ninth pro season. My stage win in the 2015 Tour de France came as proof that I'm capable of performing on the cobbles. I want to show I'm strong there and to support the team. Besides these races, I will be gunning again for a Tour de France stage win and the World Championships."
Photo credit: Tim De Waele