Category: Quick-Step Floors

Quick-Step boldly pedals into post-Boonen era

CALPE, Spain (VN) — Everything looked the same as Quick-Step Floors gathered for its annual pre-season training camp along Spain’s sunny Mediterranean Coast. Mechanics built bikes. Staffers huddled for scheduling meetings. VIPs hung around the bar. Riders put in some long rides to blow out the cobwebs.

It might have seemed like the venerable Belgian outfit was hitting the repeat button for its 16th year in the elite peloton, but something was fundamentally different. For the first time since 2003, Quick-Step will pedal into the racing season without Tom Boonen.

“We won a lot with Tom, and we won a lot without him,” said Quick-Step manager Patrick Lefevere. “Everyone knows what Tom meant to me and to cycling. There is no replacing him. That doesn’t mean we just go home. We keep fighting.”

The 63-year-old Lefevere walked a tight rope over the past 12 months trying to stitch together a sponsorship platform to keep the team alive for 2018 and beyond.

Most of the sponsors have been with Lefevere for years, but Boonen’s exit caused many of the Belgian-based businesses to reflect on their larger commitment to the sport. Boonen emerged as one of Belgium’s biggest sports stars, and everyone wanted to be hitched to his wagon. Cycling runs deep in Belgium, however, and that strong cultural link helped save the day. As one sponsor who’s been with Lefevere for 25 years said, “the longer I support cycling, the longer I will live.”

“There was a point last summer that I thought it was all over,” Lefevere admitted. “We made a big push because this team is special. And we have so many young, talented riders that I just didn’t want to let that all go away. Now we are on a good way.”

Tomeke’s retirement certainly didn’t come as a surprise. Lefevere knew well in advance that his marquee rider and superstar would be exiting at the Roubaix Velodrome last April. So he started planting the seeds a few years ago.

Along with Boonen, some other big names also exited. Marcel Kittel and Dan Martin each left for big-money contracts. Also out the door were Jack Bauer, Gianluca Brambila, David de la Cruz, Julian Vermote, and reliable Italian veteran Matteo Trentin.

The team shrinks by two riders, from 29 to 27, coming into 2018. That’s in large part due to new UCI rules reducing roster sizes in WorldTour races.

“We’ve invested a lot of money in new riders over the past few years,” Lefevere said. “Now it is their turn to ride at the front.”

Lefevere didn’t open his checkbook to sign a superstar to fill Boonen’s void. Elia Viviani, Michael Morkov, and budding classics star Florian Sénéchal are the only established pros new for 2018, but none of them are on the same level as Boonen. Four rookies round out the seven new recruits.

Instead of signing a slew of big names to try to fill Boonen’s shoes, Lefevere is giving his budding superstars a chance to step up.

Julian Alaphilippe, Bob Jungels, and Fernando Gaviria will have an open road going into 2018. All three will be at the Tour de France.

“I think Gaviria is a serial killer,” Lefevere said. “He wants to win everything. There is no limit to his ambition.”

Defending Tour of Flanders champion Philippe Gilbert is back for a second year as part of a two-year contract extension and helps add luster to the roster. Niki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar will also see more freedom, along with more pressure, now that Boonen is no longer the anchor for the northern classics.

“I still feel the same emotion and excitement at the start of a racing season,” Lefevere said with a twinkle in his eye. “Modern cycling has changed. What hasn’t changed is the thrill of winning. That’s what we work for.”

Boonen might not be a racer anymore, but the wheel keeps turning. Lefevere kept the wheels on the wagon, and his team will likely be a factor in just about any race it starts.

The post Quick-Step boldly pedals into post-Boonen era appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Kittel leaves Quick-Step for Katusha

Sprint star Marcel Kittel will depart Belgian squad Quick-Step Floors and head to Katusha-Alpecin for 2018 and 2019, the Russian team announced on Wednesday.

The news comes one week after Quick-Step renewed its contract with up-and-coming sprinter Fernando Gaviria, and just days after Katusha’s sprinter Alexander Kristoff announced his plans to ride for team UAE in 2018.

“I am looking forward to racing with the team and especially with Tony [Martin] and some of the other German riders,” Kittel wrote on his personal website.

Kittel, 29, had an outstanding 2017 Tour de France, winning five stages last month and holding the sprinters’ green jersey for 12 days before being forced to withdraw from the race after a crash on the 17th stage in the Alps. The German ace said he made the move to Katusha in part because of Quick-Step’s dedication to Gaviria, who won four stages of this year’s Giro d’Italia. The 22-year-old Colombian will likely ride the 2018 Tour de France, which could put Quick-Step in a position to choose which sprinter to take.

Kittel said Quick-Step management could not guarantee that he—and not Gaviria—would be the team sprinter for the Tour de France.

“The team management could not give me a definite answer and I can understand that,” Kittel said. “After Fernando Gaviria won four stages of the Giro, he will of course also want to be at the start of the Tour.”

The move to Katusha is a logical one for the German sprinter. The Russian squad has a German co-sponsor in Alpecin, and its roster already includes multiple German riders, such as Tony Martin, Rick Zabel, Nils Politt, and Marco Haller. Those four riders also feature prominently in the team’s sprint train.

“I look forward to the new challenge and—especially great—a totally German team for the sprints,” Kittel wrote.

Co-sponsor Alpecin makes hair care products, including a line of caffeinated shampoo. Kittel, who sports a vertical blond coif hairstyle, has the description “I love speed, sprinting, and hair” in his Twitter bio.

Kittel thanked his previous employers for helping him recover from a virus that plagued him in 2015 and saw him miss that year’s Tour de France due to poor form.

“I got some great support over the last two years and was able to get back to my previous best after my horror year in 2015,” he added.

His five wins this year made him the most successful German stage winner in the world’s most prestigious bike race. Kittel will be linking up with Martin again after the pair raced together for the German-based Energie Team 10 years ago as juniors, while they also spent last season together at Quick-Step.

The post Kittel leaves Quick-Step for Katusha appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Ronde winner Gilbert continues with Quick-Step

Tour of Flanders winner Philippe Gilbert will ride for Belgian team Quick-Step Floors for an additional two years. The team announced the news Monday with team CEO Patrick Lefevere calling the Belgian “an important asset.”

Gilbert, 35, started the 2017 season on a one-year deal with Quick-Step after riding with BMC Racing for five years. He had a string of excellent results in the spring classics. After second-place finishes at Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke, he won Ronde van Vlaanderen. Then, Gilbert won Amstel Gold Race despite a crash that injured his kidney.

“It was my dream to extend the contract, and I knew that after winning De Ronde and Amstel this would be possible,” Gilbert said. “I’m super happy to continue for two more years with Quick-Step Floors!”

Recently, the 2012 world champion withdrew from the Tour de France on stage 16 and did not finish Clasica San Sebastian, a race he won in 2011.

He has hinted that he’d like to try winning all five of cycling’s monument races. So far, he has won Il Lombardia, Flanders, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. That leaves Paris-Roubaix and Milano-Sanremo, two races that aren’t particularly suited to Gilbert’s strengths as more of a climber.

Nevertheless, he reemphasized his big ambitions: “It would be a dream come true to win races like Paris-Roubaix and Milano-Sanremo with this team. That’s also one of the reasons why I wanted to sign for two more years, to build up and increase my chances.”

The post Ronde winner Gilbert continues with Quick-Step appeared first on VeloNews.com.

gentlemandomestique: Tour Talk: Chapeau on a hard fought tour…

gentlemandomestique:

Tour Talk: Chapeau on a hard fought tour Marcel. We will miss you. ?Tim De Waele

Waiting for next year’s TDF like…

Waiting for next year’s TDF like…

Waiting for next year’s TDF like…

Waiting for next year’s TDF like…

?: sprintcycling

?: sprintcycling

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Marcel Kittel has abandoned the Tour de France 2017 following a crash near the beginning of Stage 17. It’s absolutely devastating, particularly considering he was on track to winning his first green jersey (maillot vert). I wish him the speediest recovery and congratulate him on his five stage wins ❤️❤️❤️

Marcel Kittel during Stage 13 of the Tour de France 2017

Marcel Kittel during Stage 13 of the Tour de France 2017