What's Cool In Road Cycling

On The Road With Quick-Step Floors 2018

Roadside PEZ: Team media days are a mixture of fun and hard work for the press, but one thing they are not is boring. A day with the Quick-Step Floors team is always interesting, different and usually with a bit of excitement thrown in. Al Hamilton was in Calpe for the ride… and lunch of course.

The fans want Philippe Gilbert

The 2018 Quick-Step media day was the first year that Tom Boonen wouldn’t attend and it did feel different, for one thing there were less Belgian women of a certain age wanting their photo taken with the top rider, although Philippe Gilbert might just be able to fill Tommeke’s shoes in that department. The day started early as parking can be a problem in the seaside resort town of Calpe on the Spanish Costa Blanca and there was an added problem… the team were using a new hotel.

The mechanics had done their work

The Sol y Mar Suitopia is further round the coast from the old Sol y Mar and is 29 floors high with a Sky lounge on the roof, more of which later. In the hotel all was ready to go, cars cleaned and bikes lined up, but no riders.

Ready to go, but where are the riders?

The weather had turned a little cooler, from 25ºC to 15ºC, which is quite nice, but there was a chill wind from the sea. In fact there was a little ice on the car at 8am.

Everything has been washed for today

The riders were not in a hurry to get the ride started, but in the end it was Philippe Gilbert who took the lead and the others followed. Zdenek Stybar was close behind, the Czech champion and Gilbert seem to have taken on the roll of leading lights.

Fernando Gaviria is still in Spain

It wasn’t sure if Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria would still be in Calpe for the media day, but his bike is here, so he can’t be on his way to the Vuelta a San Juan just yet.

A slightly different name badge for Stybar

Ex-cyclocross star Zdenek Stybar’s bike was also waiting its rider.

Brian Holm talks 2018

Always good for a quote; DS Brian Holm.

The riders are ready, but it’s cold outside

It was time to move, but the riders were warmer in the hotel.

Stybar looking cool in his National champs jersey

What about next year, Zdenek? “I can’t wait to get the ball rolling with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche and the other Spring Classics, before making my Giro d’Italia debut.”

Time to go Philippe

No more time to chat, a ride needed doing. Of course there was a rush for the seats in the team cars and minibus and the Belgian TV crews were at the front. Not to worry there was a car sitting road-side with no driver, patience would be the answer. After patience ran out a phone call to Alessandro Tegner had us on the road with a select group and Alessandro at the wheel.

Eventually we found the group

Of course by this time we were well behind the riders. Ale is Italian, Italians know how to drive, Italians know how to catch a group of cyclists. Is it in their blood? We will never know, but with a slight deviation from the planned route we met the team coming in the other direction and had a good laugh doing it. Always a fun day with Ale and Quick-Step!

And lost them again

Same valley, different village

The route took the riders through the Jalon Valley where they turned and took a different road back towards Calpe, we had missed the big climb, but there was still many photo opportunities.

The pace wasn’t too high

It was not a hard ride and everyone was enjoying the sun and the craziness of the photographers.

A snack for Stybar

There was one little climb

No one was in trouble

Maybe no one?

Gaviria isn’t known for his climbing abilities, but there was nothing today that would cause concern.

And we were off again

Not a bad view from the car

My view from the team car had its moments, but the banter inside made up for any losses.

We saw the riders sometimes

A little attack close to home

Bike riders are the same everywhere. Any chance of a little attack and if a moto comes in handy… well you would, wouldn’t you?

And the chase

Of course any attack causes a chase.

You need an electric bike to keep up

A bit of mechanical doping at the back of the group.

(Some of) The 2018 Quick-Step line-up

After a very nice lunch, which was finished off with ice cream thanks to the suggestion from Brian Holm, it was time for the presentation. Not all the riders were there due to the Tour Down Under, Rotterdam ‘6 Days’ and some riders in southern climes, but we still had 16 of the 27.

Team manager, Patrick Levefere had this to say: “Last year it was an amazing one, truly fantastic, thanks to our great riders, staff and, of course, our sponsors, who I’m very happy to have here, by our side. We are very well aware it will be difficult to replicate the feats of 2017, but we will strive to do good this season. Obviously, we have a very young team, but that’s because we invest in the future. The next generation is coming strong from behind – I’m talking here of riders like Julian, Bob or Fernando – and they need to show they can be leaders. Of course, we have expectations also from the experienced guys, who we are confident that can still have a say and bring us many joy and satisfactions. Overall, we are looking forward to this season!”

29 floors

Presentation over and it was time for the interviews in the Sky Lounge up on the 29th floor – Great views of the Mediterranean coast – the drinks and cakes were quite nice too.

And a kids play area

The town of Calpe

That’s the Cumbre del Sol – Vuelta stage finish

Calpe port and the Peñon

Top draw for the Belgian TV – Philippe Gilbert

Bob Jungels also popular with the press

Bob Jungels, twice winning the best young rider jersey at the Giro d’Italia and Tirreno-Adriatico and also setting several landmarks for the Luxembourg cycling along the way. This year, the 25-year-old will take a different approach, one that will see him focus on the Tour de France, where he’ll make his first outing since 2015. “We took the decision to go to the Tour in October, during our first team meeting. I looked over the parcours and noticed that the first ten days are really tricky, but at the same time present some opportunities for our team. It will be nice to be one of the team’s leaders there and I’ll ride with the hope of doing a good general classification.”

Philippe Gilbert: “I’ll be at the start of Paris-Roubaix in 2018”

Philippe Gilbert was undoubtedly one of the stars of 2017, thanks to his Ronde van Vlaanderen and Amstel Gold Race imperious victories, but the Belgian doesn’t want to rest on his laurels. “Flanders was a beautiful moment, but now is a thing of the past. It’s a new season with new goals, I feel everything is in its place, so I’m going for Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix, which isn’t a secret to anyone. It goes without saying this won’t be easy, because you can be the strongest guy in the race and still lose it, but I’m ready to give it my best. Quick-Step Floors has an aggressive approach to races, which is also my way of racing, so things look promising.”

At 35 years of age, Philippe is the oldest rider of the team, and at the same time one of the most decorated in the peloton, with a World Championships title, four Monument wins and several stages across all Grand Tours to his name, but is there any pressure on him as he prepares to kick-start what promises to be an exciting spring campaign? “Lots of people are asking me this, but there’s no pressure at all, I don’t feel any burden whatsoever. We have a lot of quality in this group, many riders who are capable of shining and winning big races. For me, the most important thing is to know I gave everything and don’t have any regrets at the end of the day.”

Mmmm, cakes!

Fernando Gaviria is set to make his debut this season on the sport’s biggest stage, the Tour de France. But 2018 will be about more than the Grande Boucle for the prodigious Colombian, as the 23-year-old was quick to point out.

“It’s a new year, and I am motivated to confirm my previous results and build on them. I am keen on working hard and making the most of every opportunity, as I always want to win. I am hoping for a smooth start to the season, so I can arrive in the best possible condition for the Classics. I am excited and eager to ride the cobbled classic, races for which I have a deep love, and then to be 100% fit for the Tour de France. There you can find the highest level in the world, so to race the Tour is a dream come true. It won’t be easy, but I hope to come out of the race with a stage win.”

# A big thanks to the Quick-Step Floors team, press officer Mark Ellegaard and of course Alessandro Tegner for a great day. #

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