Etixx – Quick-Step 2015: Training Camp Media Day
New jerseys and new name, but the team is much the same as one of the best. Our man in Spain, Alastair Hamilton, joined the Etixx – Quick-Step media day in Calpe for an up close and personal look. Was it the same as last year? No, but lot’s of fun chasing the stars of the Etixx – Quick-Step team around Spain.
The media days with the Etixx – Quick-Step team’s previous incarnations were normally run smoothly and the interviews were relaxed and usually humorous. But this year there seemed to be too many TV crews and not enough seats in the vehicles and add to that, Mr. Cavendish was in one of his moods, the day was maybe not as relaxed as usual, but was still fun. Let’s start at the beginning.
As is the team’s habit when it comes to the second training camp of the year, they were based in Calpe on Spain’s Costa Blanca. They also have a pre-Christmas camp in Oliva 50 kilometers up the road, but without the annoyance of the press.
Just like last year there would be a short training ride with the chance of rider photos followed by lunch and then a presentation from all the top men of the team management and then the interviews with the riders.
The riders were meant to be at the truck for 9:45 and ready to roll by 10 am, but were late. When they did come down there was a rush for a photo of World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski with his special Specialized, nice paint job. Tom Boonen is still the Belgian favorite; all the Belgian pensioners on holiday in Calpe (and there are a lot in winter) wanted their ‘selfie’ with him. All the riders were happy to mingle, except Mark Cavendish who waited by the car; it was maybe a sign for later.
Then there was the mad rush for seats in the team vehicles. We were led to believe there were two people carriers and three team cars, there wasn’t, there was a shortage of a people carrier. As this is a Belgian based team, the Belgian TV ruled the roost, filling the car and leaving no room for the rest of us. But not to worry.
Plan ‘B’ was to get a map of the ride and take to my own car with my new mate; Matthieu, who makes sports video for the website of the Belgian newspaper La Derringer Heure. The others stranded journos had either the same choice or to do a bit of sunbathing on the beach or maybe go back to bed.
After a fast short cut we met the riders coming the other way up the same hill we photographed BMC a few weeks previously. Not enough time for any photos and turn the car round, so it was another chase.
Not too difficult to catch up as a stop was made for a ‘nature break’ so we could shoot past for some head on shots. Passing the group again was not going to be possible, so with a bit of local knowledge, another shortcut put us ahead of the game again at the top of a short climb.
Parked in a nice wide lay-by we had a great view of them approaching, but Mr. Cavendish didn’t want his photo taken and passed us on the inside of the car. Nice bit of road handling, but if it had gone wrong his 2015 season would have been shorter than his curtailed 2014 campaign. Back at the hotel Mark had to make some adjustment to his bike, but was not happy having his photo taken and so shot back in side the hotel in a cloud of expletives.
In the hotel it was time to catch up with some work on the PEZ site and wait for lunch, it seemed everyone was running late today. Can’t complain about the lunch though, large salad bar, choice of different meats, fish, pasta, race and too many deserts. This is where the team’s press officer Alessandro excelled himself and made sure we were well looked after.
The team presentation started with a standing one-minute silence for the murdered journalists and cartoonists in the John Hebdo office in Paris.
The board of the team, lead by Bassel Kok and Patrick Levefere, introduced the team’s main sponsors; Frans De Cock of Quick-Step, Marc Coucke, Etixx – Quick-Step and Sport & Development Manager Rolf Aldag to discuss the history and heritage of the team from 2003 until 2014, as well as the goals and aspirations of Etixx – Quick-Step for the 2015 season.
“I became 60 two days ago,” Lefevere said. “Sometimes I feel my age, sometimes I feel like a young dog running around with so much energy. Of course with the age, the experience joins you. I also have very good people around me, helping me to run this team. I’m still very proud to be here at the head of this team along with Mr. Zdenek Bakala, the Board of Directors, and with my sponsors who are so in line with me.”
“The key to a lot of victories is to like winning,” Lefevere continued. “The day you wake up and you don’t feel the stress to win, it is better you stop. If that day comes with me I’ll stop immediately. But I’m not there yet. We thought two years ago that 62 victories would be impossible to beat as a number. We did it last year. I’m not going to say that we can’t beat the 2014 number this year, but what I really like is the quality of the victories. Of course you cannot choose what kind of victories you will earn, but if we could add one quality win to the total, I would have to say Milano-Sanremo. But regardless, I am looking forward to more wins and more success with Etixx – Quick-Step.”
Sporting manager Rolf Aldag described his hopes for the 2015 season: “First of all let me say in this team we have 27 outstanding riders. We have a good mix of veterans and young talent. It is nice how the goals of the team coincide with the individual riders so closely. You can see the spirit of the team.”
“Concerning our goals for 2015, we’d like to extend our aspirations in the major stage races. We targeted the Giro for the GC and the Tour for stages in the 2014 editions. In 2015, due to the quality of the team, we believe we can move forward and be present in all three Grand Tours. We think we can enter these races with multiple goals in the GC and as stage hunters. At the same time we want to be present in the Monuments and maintain our confidence in the races that are the base of the team’s heritage. The third goal is to try to develop our young riders, and also our young staff members, to give them a career chance. We love that people come to our team and grow within our system of success and absorb our way of thinking. I think with this kind of situation we can work together for good results. We can look at all our young talent and have a goal to help them grow step-by-step, and play a role in the sport in the future.”
It was time for the interviews. As before TV ruled and they had to do their work before they lost the sunlight (and probably so they could hit the bar early). World champ Michal Kwiatkowski was first up, he’s very quietly spoken, so the usual practice of leaving the recorder on the arm of the chair wasn’t good enough, so Michal had a dozen of them shoved in his face. “I’m looking forward to racing with the Rainbow Jersey, starting with Tour de San Luis. As of now things are going well. I’m healthy and trying to get stronger day-by-day. I’m looking forward to the upcoming races.”
Then Mark Cavendish was ready to give his answers; “yes, no and I don’t remember” don’t make very interesting responses, he didn’t want to be there and that was obvious. Maybe he should ride the Tour Down Under and wouldn’t have to do the media thing. He did set out his main hope for the season: “Obviously the Tour de France is my biggest goal, it is every year and 2015 is no exception.” Even when ‘Cav’ is in one of his moods you still have like him.
As always Tom Boonen was on form, great answers and always with a smile and a joke if possible. He knows how to work the crowd. Boonen said the Cobbled Classics will be his big target for the 2015 season, as they are every year. “Of course Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix have been the main goal since 2012,” Boonen said. “It’s the same plan as it always is. Just go maximum into those races and do my best to win.”
Niki Terpstra was hot off the boards in Rotterdam and his ‘6 Day’ win the night before. He looked tired, but happy. “First of all I am happy about yesterday’s victory. It was nice and at the end it was also a good way to speed up the legs, and it is also nice to have a goal accomplished already. Now I have developed some race speed. I have already a good feeling and I hope to keep this feeling until the Classics period of the season.”
Just as the sun was starting to drop below the mountains and the temperature with it, cyclo-cross World champion Zdenek Stybar was available for questions. He spoke in four languages without a break. It was the first time I had spoken to the Czech professional champion and I’m glad I waited. He wants to be a top man on the road and knows what he has to do to get there. “I will not target any particular race, but I will aim to do well in a specific period of the year. The period I want to aim for is the Classics period. I don’t want to peak for any race, I just want to be in great shape for that time of the year. I’m improving. The condition is getting better. I had to come a long way.” But when talking about cyclo-cross you can see he still loves the battles in the mud. You could feel the disappointment in missing defending the rainbow jersey this year and racing in it. Maybe a Road World championship would make up for it.
In the end it was another great day with the team of stars. I just hope Alessandro saves me a seat next year. Stay tuned to PEZ for the interviews in full over the coming weeks.
Thanks to Alessandro Tegner and the Etixx – Quick-Step team, it was still a top day on the road.