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The Quick.Step-Davitamon team was presented to the press on Friday, January 9 in Waregem, Belgium. Ranked number two in the world at the end of last year, Quick.Step riders won 22 races, including Paolo Bettini's three World Cups and the overall World Cup classification, Richard Virenque's stage win and KOM jersey in the Tour de France, Michael Rogers' wins in the Tours of Belgium, Germany and the Route du Sud, and Johan Museeuw's win and the team's domination of one of the most important Belgian races, Het Volk.
Paolo Bettini's goals this year are well known. The Italian who is the UCI's number one ranked rider aims to win his third World Cup in succession, "something that no other rider has achieved," he said. "But the biggest thing would be to win the Olympic Title in Athens." Bettini also doesn't count out the World Championship in Verona.
For 34 year old Richard Virenque, his main goal will be to win the polka dotted jersey for being King of the Mountains in the Tour de France for a seventh time, again a feat that no other climber has achieved. Virenque currently stands equal with Lucien Van Impe and Federico Bahamontes on six polka dot jerseys each, but believes he has it in him to win another.
Johan Museeuw (38) will retire in mid-April in 2004, but before then will ride his favourite classics, including Het Volk, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. "I'm motivated and fresh again," said Museeuw. "I want to go round one more time. Whether I can catch another 'big fish'? The most important thing is that I can be at the top level again."
Michael Rogers, who grew greatly in stature during 2003, will help to lead the team's young group of riders, which include Patrik Sinkewitz, Jurgen Van Goolen and Tom Boonen. The latter is relishing the chance to ride the classics again in support of Museeuw and Bettini. "We have quite a strong team for the classics," said Boonen, who will probably find himself in a more responsible role in 2004.
Team manager Patrick Lefevere said that the team's main goals will be the classics, World Cup and Tour de France. "We have a driven team, sponsors, personnel and racers. The mission is: confirm. Johan Museeuw has found his strength again after the Landuyt affair. Wilfried Cretskens told me after the training camp that the "old man" had made it painful for everyone.
New riders to the team include Laurent Dufaux, Jose Antonio Pecharroman, Juan Miguel Mercado, Jose Antonio Garrido and Stefano Zanini, nearly all of whom are accomplished riders. On the flip side, the team has lost Frank Vandenbroucke to Fassa Bortolo.
For full details and background on the riders in the Quick.Step-Davitamon team - and all other Division I (and probable Division II) trade teams for 2004 - please visit our recently updated Teams Database, produced by Theo Muller.
The Quick.Step launch coincided with the Cofidis team presentation, which took place in Paris yesterday and was attended by Cyclingnews editor Chris Henry. Click here for a full report and photos of the presentation.
Images by Luc Claessen/Cyclingnews/actiefotos.be
Images by AFP Photo