Photo and Interview Special: Deceuninck – Quick-Step Media Day
Photo and Interview Special: Quick-Step Floors, the most ‘winningest’ team in 2018 had their media day and presented the new main sponsor, Deceuninck, this week in Spain. PEZ was there to take in the fun and talk to the riders as they build up to another successful season – From the young Remco Evenepoel to the super-star Philippe Gilbert.
Bikes ready and waiting
January comes around faster every year, but if you have the Quick-Step, now Deceuninck – Quick-Step, media day to look forward too, then that’s no problem. Thinking about it; the first time I visited the team at training camp was 2008 or 2009, but I’m not sure. The team were staying in the Esmeralda hotel at the back of the now popular Diamante and Tom Boonen was there. The present team home, the Hotel Suitopia wasn’t even a dream on an architects drawing-board back then.
Anyway, that was many a year ago and things have changed since then, apart from the boss, Patrick Lefevere and Alessandro Tegner, who is now marketing and communication manager. Riders come and go, but the day would not be the same without Pat and Ale. There was one disappointment; Ale would not be driving me today, I would miss out on a mix of experiences – fear and possibly miss-placed confidence.
The Czech contingent – Petr Vakoc and Zdenek Stybar
On arrival at the highest and newest hotel in Calpe, there was a very nice goody bag with a mix of presents, from a bottle of gin to Belgian chocolates and a beach towel. A nice surprise only surpassed by a warm welcome and a man-hug form Ale.
The guys are in a good mood
Round the back of the hotel the team’s Specialized bikes were ready and the riders had started to trickle down from their rooms, but as you can imagine, anywhere there are cyclist there is a queue for the coffee machine.
There was a queue for the coffee machine
Everything the riders needed for the ride was laid out – Straight in the pockets for later, although an hour and a half ride wasn’t going to need much in the way of food.
Another media day and another day of training
Philippe Gilbert, ex-World champion and multi-classics winner was the big draw for the Belgian media, especially the TV stations. A very close second is the ‘Super Kid’ Remco Evenepoel, he has a big future ahead of him and switches from Flemish to French and English with no problem. I just wanted to ask if he was old enough to drive.
Bob Jungels getting the coffee down for the ride
Luxembourg champion Bob Jungles had made sure of his caffeine supply.
Spanish rider, Enric Mas wanted to get on the road
Second in the 2018 Vuelta a España, Enric Mas is looking to improve on that in 2019 as he will be riding his third season as a pro and is aiming at the Tour de France for the first time. The 24 year-old Mallorcan came up through the Fundacion Contador team and has been referred to as the next Alberto Contador, but he prefers to be the first Enric Mas.
Everyone wanted a photo of Philippe Gilbert
Philippe Gilbert doesn’t mind the fuss, he should be used to it by now, and always has a smile and a nice word for everyone. I first interviewed him in 2012 when he signed for BMC, I must have made an impression as he remembers me as the guy who asks those ‘different’ questions. I probably peaked when I asked if he washed the dishes or put up a shelf when he was at home.
Time for a last phone call for Bob
Everyone had to make that last call before hitting the tarmac.
Normally the ride leaves late and there is always a struggle to find a seat in a following vehicle. This year the team hired extra mini-vans and so there were no problems and at 10 on the dot we were gone.
Alessandro Tegner would not be driving this year, as I said, he remembers asking me to change my article one year as my description of his Italian ‘street craft’ didn’t sound as safe as the drive was, (cough). This is the only time I’ve changed something I’ve written… but only for Ale. My driver today was team trainer Koen Pelgrim, a calm day, but I missed the Ale experience.
A couple of Lotto Soudal guys getting the Ks in
We left ahead of the riders and passed the most popular hotel for cyclists in Calpe, well Spain… the Diamante. Actually in January it’s probably the most popular hotel in Europe for winter training. The team vehicles for Astana, Nippo, Roompot, Sunweb, Gazprom-RusVelo, Lotto Soudal, and probably others I’ve forgotten, were all in the car park.
On the road out of Calpe to Moraira we started to pass riders from other teams. First some Lotto Soudal riders, then it was Gazprom-RusVelo. In the distance there was a group of Sunweb riders in the new red kit and on the new Cervelos, but one rider (no name here) looked like he wasn’t feeling too well and had sat up.
His teammates rode on
We passed the group of Sunweb riders and stopped to wait for our group of Deceuninck – Quick-Step riders to come up the only long climb of the day from the coast to the town of Benissa.
Gilbert on the wheel of Keisse
It’s not a hard climb, but the guys made it look too easy.
Belgian champion Lampaert and Mas took it easy on the climb
The only long climb of the day
More photos were taken on the climb than will ever see the light of day.
Smile for the camera
Lampaert and Keisse lead
After a loop through the Jalon/Xalo Valley we headed back towards Calpe, and yes, it’s the same route they have taken on the media day for years, but it works.
Out on the ride
There was still the chance for two stops for photos and video.
Alaphilippe and Gilbert
There is a slight climb to the main road back to the hotel; Julian Alaphilippe was quite happy to play up for the camera with an attack.
Alaphilippe made an attack for the cameras
There wasn’t much of a chase, there was a bit of laughing though.
Nobody really wanted to chase
From there to the coast it is all downhill and there was no way to pass the group, but at the speed they were going we were going to get back well before lunch.
Not long to ride before lunch
Back at the hotel it was time for lunch. You just can’t fault a hotel buffet that has everything you could want and some things you don’t even know what they are. This being the Valencia region there were two different paellas, one meat the other seafood. Also a pasta and pizza bar, a chef who would cook steak or tuna as you like it and…. Well, I could go on, but I’m getting hungry thinking about it.
Heading back to the hotel and the speed lifted
After lunch the presentation took place before the interviews. Patrick Lefevere introduced the new sponsor, Deceuninck, a world-wide window manufacturer that is based only a very short distance from Lefevere’s house. The team had been searching all over the globe for a new sponsor and there was one on the door step.
Patrick Lefevere gave his thoughts on the 2018 season: “We can look back with pride on what we achieved last year, it was a tremendous season with a lot of satisfaction.” The Belgian team boss admitted they had lost some riders, but took on some new riders. “We hope 2019 will be another great year, which we start with the same enthusiasm and motivation. I want to thank all our sponsors and partners, who believe in us and stand by our side. I am confident that together we will bring fireworks to the races and create many other brilliant moments with our group of experienced riders and young wolves, all motivated to make an impact.”
Introducing Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s ‘Top 6’ riders
After all the sponsors had their say, and there is a lot of them, the riders were all introduced. The Tour Down Under riders and the South American riders obviously were not present, but we heard from and all about the others.
The 2019 Deceuninck – Quick-Step team, without the South Americans and the TDU riders
More photos before heading up to the Sky Bar on the 29th floor for the interviews.
Not a bad view from the Sky Bar of the Hotel Suitopia
The interviews are not scheduled, unless you are Belgian TV, so learning from previous years I thought it would be better to get short ‘sound bites’ from as many riders as possible. That worked out quite well.
Iljo Keisse still in his race kit
Iljo Keisse was in the bar first, but he hadn’t gone back to his room to get changed out of his race kit. “I hope I have a good season with the team, for me personally my main objectives are the Classics and the Giro d’Italia and the national championships as they are in my home city. That’s the most important for me personally, but I think to do a good job for the team to have a lot of wins, maybe not as many as last year, but we want to make the races nice and hard and good for everybody. That’s the most important.”
Merijn Casteleyn interviewing Philippe Gilbert for Belgian TV
Going into his 17th season as a pro, Philippe Gilbert is still as keen as ever and for a new event: “For the first time I will ride the Tour of Provence, it’s an interesting race with a prologue and three stages. I expect some results there, but no pressure. I will have the form then, but I don’t know if it will be enough to win. My form will have to be a lot better to win in Flanders or Roubaix, those two races are my goal. Also Sanremo, we are going to be there with a really strong team. At the end of the season there is the World championships, I’ve looked at the graphics (for the parcours) and it looks OK, so I’m sure I could have a chance again. If you have worn the rainbow jersey once, then you always want to wear it again.”
The Spanish press were there for Enric Mas
Enric Mas will ride the Tour de France in 2018: “I’m really looking forward to it. For the early part of the season I will have the same race schedule I had last year and two years ago and then the second part will be the Tour. I know it’s my first Tour, so we will see what will happen there. It’s not the Vuelta, it’s a different race and the first week, nine days, are really crucial.”
Belgian Super Star – Johan Museeuw
Not only was Belgian ex-World champion and ‘Classics King’ Johan Museeuw there, but also bumped into another Roubaix winner, Johan Vansummeren, who I had interviewed in Calpe many years ago when he was with Garmin. Vansummeren had to retire due to heart problems, but he said he now has a pacemaker and all is good. He also had a nice tartan jacket, bit no photo.
The Sky Bar for the interviews
TV had the best place for their work, although I can’t complain as the coffee and cakes were inside.
Star of the future – Remco Evenepoel
The youngest rider in the pro peloton, Remco Evenepoel. What is his big hope for 2019? “I want to win Gent-Wevelgem and to win as much as possible and learn a lot and become stronger. No, I think it’s important that people know that they should not expect too much from me. People think I’m already going for a victory or five, but that is certainly not my expectation. If I do not win yet, I will certainly not be disappointed. I will try to follow as long as possible during the race and to perform as well as possible on my courses. If something is possible then I will try to get it. We’ll see what it is then.”
Tim Declercq – ‘El Tractor’
Tim Declercq is a strong work horse for the team: “Everyone has their own characteristics and I think I’m just really good at giving it my maximum for a long time. I know I’m not the guy that has the values to win a race, but what I do is important to take what you are good at and be the best at that. I have found my job in this team. It’s nice if you do a lot of work and they win, but also the appreciation they give is very nice, Even if they don’t give appreciation… it’s my job, but I usually get so much appreciation that gives you the courage to go on. I got my nick name ‘El Tractor’ because of all the pulling of the pack. I’m really happy with this nick name because I’m obviously not a Ferrari engine and so I’m quite reliable and I can pull for a long time, so I think it suits me quite well.”
Davide Martinelli – Giro stage win on his want’s list
Italian rider Davide Martinelli. What are his hopes for 2019? “For sure, in this team it is important to work hard for the other guys. Like me I’m a supporter, a worker, we always fight for the victory and so our job is important. My goal for next season is to try to be in some important Classic to support the team in the best days, I hope. For sure we try to not beat the record because as Pat said before, it will be almost impossible, but to try to win as much as possible. I think if we make 50 victories we can be happy. We fight every day and we have a lot of races to do, we have to always fight, like that is the most important race of the year, from the first to the end. I start in Algarve and then maybe some Classics, but you know in this team we have 10 or 15 riders that can be at the start, so it’s not easy. So before the start it’s a fight, but we are really like a family, so when another rider is in a better position it’s not a problem. Maybe I’ll ride the Giro, if not the Giro, the Vuelta. it would be nice for me being Italian to be at the start of the Giro as it is a special race and I’m hopeful I can do it. My dream is to win a stage of the Giro. Stages with a bit of up and down, but not too hard suit me, I can survive and win from a small group. Another goal would be, I know it’s not easy, Milano-Sanremo, I like the long distance as I have a good resistance. OK, I’m still young and have been a pro for three years, I hope for the future, you have to keep dreaming or it’s all over.”
Philippe Gilbert – Top rider and top bloke, always has a smile
Thanks again to Ale and Phil and their team who set up a very successful day. Looking forward to 2020 with the ‘Wolfpack’ already.
You can get all the information on the Deceuninck – Quick-Step team on their website HERE.