Quick-Step have shuffled into the limelight signing the likes of Richard Virenque, Johan Museeuw and Frank Vandenbroucke. With the departure of Mapei from cycling at the end of the season, the Belgian laminated floor kings move up from the role of co-sponsors for 2003.
Tour Focus Shifts to Green, Polka-dot
Eyeing the upcoming merger of Domo Farm Frites with Lotto, Quick-Step boss Frans De Cock, Tuesday launched his brand new €8M team for next season.
"When Mapei decided to pull out of cycling, we had propositions from US Postal, Saeco and others who wanted us as a co-sponsor. But we decided to become number one sponsors and other companies came to us."
The flooring specialists unveiled co-sponsors Davitamon (pharmaceuticals) and Latexco (mattresses).
Domo formation boss Patrick Lefevere will be sporting director of the new team, even if for now the 47-year old Belgian insists he remains dedicated on the current Tour de France and season.
According to Quick-Step’s De Cock, Frenchman Richard Virenque will be one of the key members of the new team.
"Richard owes a lot to Patrick Lefevere. [The Frenchman] has given him the green light to follow him in the new team", De Cock added.
The recent Mont Ventoux stage winner is under contract for another year with Domo but as the team has decided to merge with Lotto for next season, the deal falls apart.
Quick-Step will also be counting on Belgian veteran Joahn Museeuw who according to De Cock will finish his career under his new colours in May 2003 at the Tour of Begium.
Former Mapei riders Paolo Bettini, Cadel Evans, Lazlo Bodrogi and Miguel Martinez will stick together and also move to the team as they remain under contract with Mapei.
Finally Frank Vandenbroucke is the other big signing. The former enfant terrible of Belgian cycling has not ridden a bike since the mounth of February after banned substances were found in his home. The 27-year old former Paris-Nice and Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner was later cleared of all charges and reinstated.
With all the top names they’ve signed, Quick-Step would have enough UCI points to rank among the top ten teams in the World, which means that they would automatically be qualified to compete in all three majour Tours.