Quick Step sticks to classics

Quick Step is sticking to what it knows best as it rides into the 2010 season and that is clearly the spring classics for the powerful Belgian outfit.

Quick Step is sticking to what it knows best as it rides into the 2010 season and that is clearly the spring classics for the powerful Belgian outfit.

Quick Step unveiled its official 2010 roster Friday in Courtrai that keeps the team as the sharp end of the fight for Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, races it likes to call their own.

“This year, we have a very balance team,” said team manager Patrick Lefevere. “We have a strong team for the classics, with Boonen, Devolder, Chavanal and Barredo. For the rest, we have some young riders who are full of promise. Kevin Seeldraeyers is a rider full of potential. We’ll see if he can surprise us in the Tour de France.”

The team won 24 races in 2009, about half of its haul in 2008 when it still had Paolo Bettini and Gert Steegmans to count on for victories.

What it didn’t have in numbers last year, it made up for in quality, winning Flanders and Roubaix as well as the Clásica San Sebástian with Carlos Barredo.

Boonen will be the team’s high-profile rider, with his top goal of winning a record-tying fourth Paris-Roubaix.

“I am working very hard for the classics. I’d like to win one of them and I am very motivated to try to win a fourth Roubaix,” he said Friday. “After that, I will think about the Tour, the Vuelta and the worlds. I am very motivated for the season.”

Devolder, who won his second straight Flanders, says he won’t put too much pressure on himself in last year’s Tour de France and prefers to think spring classics before looking too far ahead in the schedule.

“I was disappointed during the Tour, but maybe I was expecting too much. This year, I will be ready physically and just take it as it comes,” he said. “And for the classics, I will be ready for Roubaix and Flanders. I feel like I could win for a third year in a row, but that will be difficult.”

French rider Sylvain Chavanel, who won stages at Paris-Nice and the Eneco Tour, said his experiences from last year with the Belgian team only fuel his ambition to try to win a major classic.

“Last year I had the sensation that I could win a big classic. The Tour of Flanders is ideal, its ambiance, its history, but I also know that Boonen and Devolder also want to win, so I will be the third man,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed racing with this team. We have a strategy before every race, without improvisation. I’ve only seen that a few times and it’s very enjoyable.”

Several riders are gone, including Allan Davis, opening the door for Wouter Weylandt to become the team’s second sprinter behind Boonen.

Behind the team’s top tier of stars are riders keen to find their place.

Top among them is Kevin Seeldraeyers, who won the best young rider’s jersey at Paris-Nice and the Giro d’Italia. He’s expected to make a start at the Tour de France and give the Belgians something to cheer about in the GC.

In total, there are 27 riders from eight nations. Newcomers include Nikolas Maes, 23, and track star Iljo Keisse, 27. Andreas Stauff, 22, is a promising German sprinter who won a stage and the points jersey at the Tour de l’Avenir.

Five riders left from last year’s team: Steven de Jongh retired, Davis to Astana, Sebastien Rosseler to RadioShack, Dominique Cornu to Skil-Shimano and Hubert Schwab to Voralberg-Coratec.