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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

News feature, March 1, 2007

Pink knights ready for the battle

Predictor-Lotto presented in Belgium

By Brecht Decaluwé in Sint-Niklaas

Team Predictor-Lotto
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

The manager of Omega Pharma, the company that owns Predictor kicked off the presentation of the Predictor–Lotto team with a wink towards its product. "Nine months after getting the idea to change the team's name, the baby has been born." The team has created a structure to get Belgian talents into its ranks; it works together with two continental teams and a handful of youth teams.

"I truly believe that we have the best cycling pyramid of the world, every year we allow young riders to move up in the system. Cycling is one of the few sports in Belgium where we are one of the best in the world, and the only way to benefit from that massive base is to build on it," Coucke said. "We have three team leaders who have the aura that is needed for that position. Next to them we hope that two younger riders can take the step forward," Coucke expressed his hope on a successful 2007 season.

Sportive Manager Marc Sergeant hammered on the team's pyramid system as well. "Our team is now stronger even though we rejuvenated, thanks to the pyramid system," Sergeant said. During the first ProTour year the team finished fourth in the team's ranking and last year they were sixteenth. "Our place is somewhere in between," Sergeant said. The Predictor team has no less than four neo-pro's, they all have the Belgian nationality: Dries Devenyns, Geert Steurs, Dominique Cornu and Greg Van Avermaet.

"Cornu and Van Avermaet are the top talents," Sergeant said about his youngsters. Besides the two there are new names like Jurgen Van den Broeck, Matthew Lloyd, Dario Cioni, Stefano Zanini and team directors José De Cauwer and Roberto Damiani. "We've added De Cauwer to guide our young boys; Damiani is a very experienced man, he led Basso to the U23 world title and has worked for many strong teams," Sergeant explained.

The Pyramid
Photo ©: Predictor-Lotto
(Click for larger image)

Former national coach José De Cauwer, who guided Tom Boonen to his world title in Madrid, talked with Cyclingnews about his new job, which is mainly guiding the young men. "I'm taking care of their program and keep an eye on what they do while not riding the bike. In the past we noticed that with many boys their progression stops when they become a pro rider, they lose ambition as they need to work too much for the experienced guys. We will allow the boys to seriously peak towards a race which will be their major exam.

"For example Greg Van Avermaet will be a team leader at the E3-Prijs Harelbeke and if he can be with the last 25 who go into the final then we know that he could be able to win the Tour of Flanders in about three years. Dominique Cornu will prepare himself for the Dauphiné Libéré, for now he'll be focusing on the track during the next two months as we aim to get him in the Olympics individual pursuit. We think he can make it into the top-eight but in four years he could aim much higher," De Cauwer expressed his hopes of glory for his 'poulain' who became world champion last October, in the U23 time trial in Salzburg.

Leader in the upcoming classics will be Belgian Leif Hoste, who came over from the Discovery Channel. "I learned a lot from Dirk Demol over there; this year I hope to win my first real classic," Hoste said to Cyclingnews. In the Primavera, the first Monument of the year, Aussie Robbie McEwen will lead the team. "I was ill for a long time but I hope to get in form in time for Milano-Sanremo. I'll be happy if I can repeat the seasons I had during the past three years," McEwen said.

Robbie McEwen
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

While these guys are getting close to their best form Aussie Cadel Evans will be starting in his first races. The number four or five from last year's Tour de France – as we're still waiting for an official result – has good hopes for this season. "With Roberto Damiani we've got a director who's a specialist at the stage races, our time trialing should be better as well." Regarding 2006, he said, "I noticed I had the longest season of all top-10 finishers at the Tour de France; I raced from January until October. This year I only need to start in February..."

Two guys were standing a bit to the side with a sad look in their eyes; Björn Leukemans and neo-pro Dries Devenyns already have surgery under their belts as they both crashed hard at the Etoile de Bessèges. Devenyns broke his arm while Leukemans did the same with his collarbone. "I'll be happy if I keep it to this injury this season. However, I guess I'll learn a lot from everybody this year. I'm coming over from a team who's outside the pyramid so I don't know what I can expect from De Cauwer," Devenyns said.

Leukemans was the team's leader during the Walloon Classics last yaer and was supposed to do all the classics this year, which changed when until he crashed on a traffic barrier. "I've had lots of injuries in the past and had a hard time to deal with that but I'll get over this one as well. I feel I've become more mature and I feel much stronger as well, this needs to be my season," Leukemans declared to Cyclingnews.

Marc Coucke
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Last year the team came in the news after declaration on beverage abuses but seems to have changed. "We were focused on having fun while now we're pushing each other to perform well, adding to that I feel that the young guys have a good attitude," Leukemans explained. "In the Etoile de Bessèges there wasn't a break where we didn't have our man, that's moral boosting for all of us; we've got the fighting spirit."

We look forward to see the Predictor riders in a lot of the action this season, their pink outfit will certainly help us to spot them through the mass.

2007 Riders:
Bart Dockx (Bel - 02/09/1981)
Bert Roesems (Bel - 14/10/1972)
Björn Leukemans (Bel - 01/07/1977)
Cadel Evans (Aus - 14/02/1977)
Chris Horner (USA - 23/10/1971)
Christophe Brandt (Bel - 06/05/1977)
Dario Cioni (Ita - 02/12/1974)
Dominique Cornu (Bel - 10/10/1985)
Dries Devenyns (Bel - 22/07/1983)
Fred Rodriguez (USA - 03/09/1973)
Geert Steurs (Bel - 24/09/1981)
Greg Van Avermaet (Bel - 17/05/1985)
Johan Van Summeren (Bel - 04/02/1981)
Josep Jufré (Spa - 05/08/1975)
Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel - 01/02/1983)
Leif Hoste (Bel - 17/07/1977)
Mario Aerts (Bel - 31/12/1974)
Matthew Lloyd (Aus - 24/05/1983)
Nick Gates (Aus - 10/03/1972)
Nick Ingels (Bel - 02/09/1984)
Olivier Kaisen (Bel - 30/04/1983)
Pieter Mertens (Bel - 28/08/1980)
Preben Van Hecke (Bel - 09/07/1982)
Robbie McEwen (Aus - 24/06/1972)
Roy Sentjens (Bel - 15/12/1980)
Stefano Zanini (Ita - 23/01/1969)
Tom Steels (Bel - 02/09/1971)
Wim De Vocht (Bel - 29/04/1982)
Wim Van Huffel (Bel - 28/05/1979)
Wim Vansevenant (Bel - 23/12/1971)

See the teams' database for more information.

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Brecht Decaluwé/

Images by Predictor-Lotto

Images by Luc Claessen/

Images by DCP/Bert Geerts

Read our 2006 presentation report.

More Cyclingnews features