The OPQS Team Presentation at the Eddy Merckx velodrome in Gent was not one to be missed. Sponsors, supporters, media, and others were able to watch the unique 2013 OPQS Championships team presentation in person, on television, and online!
The day began with a presentation for the Press. There were more than 100 media members from Europe, and the US. During the presentation there was a build up, with videos of our riders and the team for the new season. Track training in Gent during the winter was one of the topics discussed, and the innovative technology of the team — developed with specialists and technical partners — was also mentioned. Furthermore, the impressive season of 2012, with 60 victories in three disciplines, was rehashed. Finally, there was an introduction to all the riders, ended by the legendary Tom Boonen, and newcomer sprinter Mark Cavendish.
"When Patrick Lefevere talked with me about the arrival of Cavendish, I was immediately happy about it," Boonen said. "I knew the skills of Mark and how strong he is. I think this year we can also collaborate well in a few races, such as Milan San Remo, or races where either one of us could go for the victory."
Boonen was also asked about his goals this season, and his ambitions for the Classics.
"The Classics are always the objective," Boonen said. "I will try to do my best at Paris-Roubaix or Ronde Van Vlaanderen, and maybe other big races. But this presentation is not just about my goals. This presentation is about the great team I am surrounded with, including the riders, staff, and sponsors."
After the presentation for the press, it was time for OPQS to prepare for the track format general presentation that was broadcast on TV channel Sport 10 in Belgium, and webcast live on the OPQS website, www.omegapharma-quickstep.com.
Before the races began, there was an interview with OPQS board members including Owner Zdenek Bakala, Chairman Bessel Kok, and CEO Patrick Lefevere.
"2012 was a year that was spectacular in one aspect in particular, and that was the contrast with 2011," Mr. Bakala said. "When we all came together in 2011, we knew we had a job ahead of us restructuring the team. We set out with certain objectives, and we worked on accomplishing those objectives. At the end of the second season — 2012 — we already managed to accomplish almost everything we wanted to in terms of our goals. It truly was the improvement of the team that was extremely successful and very spectacular."
"OPQS Cycling Team is not only a team," Kok said. "Behind the team there is also development, such as an investment in research and technology with the Bakala Academy, and also investment in the youth, such as the Continental Team we have this year. We have already established a good system, such as an Under 23 Team and the Junior Team. This year will be important not only for the team, but the new projects we have."
Bakala and Lefevere were both asked about their ideas for the future of OPQS. Bakala said he would like to repeat the results of a great 2012 season, and clinch at least one stage victory in the Tour de France.
Lefevere said he has hopes for ranking improvements at the UCI WorldTour level.
"I'd like for OPQS to be at the top of the world rankings," Lefevere said. "This means all of our riders reach their goals. We want to get to within the top three of the WorldTour rankings, as we were already 4th in 2012."
After the early interviews, it was time for an exciting night of racing amongst the riders. The schedule of races included: Track Time Trial, Quarter Finals Individual Sprint, Elimination, Derny, Semi Finals Individual Sprint, Individual Sprint Final, and the Team Sprint.
Some of the highlights included an exciting 30-plus lap Derny race between track specialists Iljo Keisse and Niki Terpstra. Keisse, paced by Trainer Tom Steels, came out with a victory.
"It was the perfect race," Keisse said. "It was a good start, and the last 10 laps were great. It is really fantastic to do the presentation on the track. Track is really the foundation of cycling and I think the fans will appreciate it."
Perhaps the most anticipated battle of the night was the Individual Sprint final, which came down to Cavendish and Boonen. The two battled neck-and-neck in the final stretch, but it was Boonen who managed to get the win. In the Team Sprint Final, it was the "Challenger" team — Michal Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Iljo Keisse, and Mark Cavendish — who won. Cavendish raised his hands in victory as he was the final rider for his victorious team.
"For me, Omega Pharma - Quick-Step is the most traditional team out there, with the most historical roots," Sprinter extraordinaire Cavendish said about signing with OPQS in 2013. "This team is steeped in the culture of cycling. Ask any young rider, especially the young classics rider what team they want to ride with. They will say OPQS without hesitation. To be a part of this dynasty is something. I am so excited for this opportunity."
Cavendish said he watched OPQS "in awe" last year.
"The Classics, the wins at the World TTT and the ITT — they were the most dominant team in the world," Cavendish said. "All that was missing was the Grand Tour stages, so that was the perfect opportunity for me to fit in this year."
World Time Trial Champion Tony Martin, who was one of the many OPQS orders interviewed during the evening, was happy with the unique team presentation.
"I had a lot of fun," Martin said. "I like to be in my natural element on the bike like this, competing on the track with my teammates. It was really fun. We all took it very seriously. We practiced this morning. This turned out to be a very nice day! I hope the supporters enjoyed it as we riders enjoyed the time we had."