Thousands of people came to Kortrijk to meet the riders and find out more about the team's ambitions for the upcoming season.
January 11th 2017 saw the Quick-Step Floors Cycling Team host its annual team presentation, which took place in Kortrijk, a town iconic for cycling, which has featured over the years in some of the world's biggest races, such as Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem or Ronde van Vlaanderen.
All around, it was a busy but rewarding day for the team's riders, who attended the media presentation in the afternoon at the D-Hotel, before heading out to the Kinepolis Cinema for the screening of the "One Year In Blue" movie; produced by the Woestijnvis company, the film – a great story of sport and passion – focuses on the team's fantastic 2016 season, which saw the Belgian World Tour outfit win 57 races, including 9 Grand Tour stages and the World Team Time Trial Championships.
An unreal atmosphere awaited the riders at the Kinepolis Theater, where they got to meet our incredible fans (more than 3200 people) who came to the event and who are relentlessly supporting us, showing their love and passion for the team with each occasion. As they walked on the red carpet, the team's riders signed autographs, took selfies and exchanged a few words with the fans, before the start of the "One Year In Blue" movie, which was only fitting to be launched now, during the film awards season.
"We were again the team with the most wins and looking at the whole picture also this season we are in a position to repeat this feat. Quick-Step Floors Cycling has a roster of major stars, which underlines the fact that they are capable of winning the Classics and playing a major role in the Grand Tours and week-long stage races. It's a very balanced team, with many strong established stars and young talented riders who are capable of surprising, and Patrick deserves credit for that", said Mister Zdenek Bakala, who took over the team at the end of the 2010 season, helping it reach new heights one season after another.
"We embark in our 15th season and it makes me proud to present the team in front of such a huge audience. 2016 was a great year, which made me very happy, but we would like to top it this season, when we hope to get a victory in the Classics, which is something we missed last year", said Patrick Lefevere, Quick-Step Floors Cycling Team's CEO and the man who created the squad a decade and a half ago. "To be sincere, it doesn't matter if it's a one-day race or a Grand Tour, we'll keep our aggressive way of racing and show our panache and team spirit. The World Championships will be another important goal, as we'll go to Norway keen to defend the team time trial title won in Qatar, while at the same time rooting for one of our guys to take the fabled rainbow jersey."
In less than three months from now, Tom Boonen will be a retired rider, and the 36-year-old Belgian – who's been with the team since its inception – is looking forward to his final races with Quick-Step Floors, confident he still has what it takes to fight for a record fifth victory in Paris-Roubaix, the "Queen of the Classics": "This is my last year and I really want to enjoy every moment of itand every race I'll do. It goes without saying that I would like to win Paris-Roubaix, which is my biggest goal of 2017, but until then I will take it each step at a time. After the Abu Dhabi injury led to me missing some weeks of training prior to the 2016 season, now everything is going according to plan and I hope I'll stay healthy until Roubaix, where you can be sure I will do my best."
In 2016, Marcel Kittel was one of the main pillars of the team, taking 12 victories (3 in Grand Tours) and helping Quick-Step Floors time trial its way to the gold medals at the World Championships. This year, the powerful German will seek to add more wins to his tally and cement his status as one of the peloton's fastest men.
"My objectives are the same as last year: have a good first part of the season and then a strong Tour de France. If everything will click again with my teammates, I'm sure the victories will come", said Marcel, who also talked of the "One Year In Blue" movie: "Wow, this was a great and unique experience and I truly loved it. At first, it's a little bit strange to have the camera around you, but with time you get used to it. These are the kind of images, mix of emotions and special moments the public wants to see, and we are happy people came here in huge numbers and watched this movie!"
Best young rider of the past Giro d'Italia and one of the race's revelations, Bob Jungels is ready to return to the Corsa Rosa in May and continue his development as a Grand Tour contender: "The plan is to ride again the Giro d'Italia, where I'll line up after doing two other nice Italian races, Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico. Last year, the Giro was a beautiful experience, and even though the course of the centenary is a hard one, I remain confident in my chances of getting a good result."
Last season, Julian Alaphilippe enjoyed his finest season to date, which saw him win the Tour of California, end up as the Critérium du Dauphiné best young rider and make his Tour de France debut. Now, the 24-year-old from Saint-Amand-Montrond will look to build on all these results and step up a gear in his fourth season with Quick-Step Cycling Team.
I have extraordinary memories from last year's races. California was fantastic, but to ride the Tour de France for the first time and discover the race day after day was the cherry on the cake.
"In 2017, I will set my eyes on the Ardennes, where we'll go with a very strong team that includes Philippe and Dan, and the Tour de France, a race which I hope to start again", the always smiling Julian said at the team presentation in Kortrijk.
Belgian Champion Philippe Gilbert, who joined the team at the end of last season, is another rider eager to kick off things and add more victories to his long and distinguished CV: "I already feel at home with Quick-Step Floors Cycling; the atmosphere is a great one, an important factor in every environment. I was also impressed by the huge number of fans who have gathered here this evening; you could feel that this team is something different! The goal is do to good and bring this team a Classic, something that both of us are missing for a few years now."
After shining in 2016, a year in which notched up two wins, finished on the podium of Volta a Catalunya and the Critérium du Dauphiné and got his best ever result in the Tour de France (9th place), Dan Martin knows he can go further in 2017: "The goal is to have a strong start to the season and take that form into the Ardennes Classics, and later focus on the Tour de France. Last year I learnt a lot there and now I know better how to handle it. It will be important to stay healthy and not get involved in any crash. If this will happen, I'm sure the results will come along."
"2017 will be an important year. Last season I was unlucky in the Classics, but now I hope to find again the winning formula, be there when it matters and help the team land a big result", said Zdenek Stybar, who will start his seventh season with Quick-Step Floors.
Also Niki Terpstra is excited to get things rolling and try to carve out other important wins on the cobbles which he loves so much: "Looking back, last year was a good one, but I missed something in the Spring one-day races. I'm still hungry for victories on the cobbles, which will be one of the main goals of the season for me."
Quick-Step Floors Cycling Team – who'll rely on 29 riders from 13 countries in 2017 – will start the season at the Tour Down Under (17-22 January) and conclude it on October 10th, on home turf, at the Nationale Sluitingprijs – Putte-Kapellen.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele