Omega Pharma-Quick Step has announced its team for the 100th edition of the Tour de France, as Mark Cavendish looks to win back the green jersey he lost to Cannondale’s Peter Sagan last year. It’s a strong line-up, and one that also features riders with their own ambitions of taking stage wins during the three-week race.
The Belgium-based outfit is looking to play an influential role from the first stage on Corsica a week on Saturday – a road stage rather than a Prologue, and one that should end in a sprint.
That gives Cavendish an opportunity to join Bradley Wiggins and David Millar as the only British riders to have worn the leader’s jersey in all three Grand Tours.
"We have a strong team at the Tour de France,” said the team’s sport and development manager Rolf Aldag, who was sports director to Cavendish at HTC-Highroad when he won the green jersey in 2011.
“Together with the sport directors we talked this morning with all the guys and they are really committed to the team goals,” he continued.
“The team will be built mainly around Mark Cavendish. Cav is there to try and win stages, and of course one of the big goals of Mark is to go for the yellow jersey on the first day.”
Last month, Cavendish won five sprint stages at the Giro d’Italia, winning the points competition, and becoming just the fifth man to take that prize in the Tour, the Vuelta and the Giro.
That performance put paid to rumours prior to the Italian race that Cavendish was unhappy with the way his leadout had performed in races since winning the Tour of Qatar in February.
“Mark will be able to count on the same leadout of the Giro d'Italia,” said Aldag. “They are already tested in race situations and will be ready again.
“[Gert] Steegmans will be the last man, and Matteo Trentin will be the second to last man. But, all the team will be committed with Mark when the stage will fit his characteristics.
“Tony Martin will be there to ride to the ‘Flamme Rouge’ on the flat stages. He will bring Matteo, Gert and Cav into the best position possible in the final kilometre."
World time trial champion Martin, meanwhile, will target the two individual stages against the clock, while Sylvain Chavanel, a former maillot jaune, will look to target some of the medium mountain stages.
Fellow Frenchman Jerome Pineau will take on the role that Bernie Eisel has fulfilled for Cavendish in previous years, helping him through the mountains and looking after him on flatter stages, while the 23-year-old Pole Michal Kwiatkowski makes his Tour debut, looking to gain experience of the race and perhaps spend time in the white jersey.
Peter Velits and Niki Terpstra complete the team, while Kevin De Weert and Martin Velits have been named as reserves.
Team CEO Patrick Lefevere commented: "We have for sure one of the best teams in the entire field at the Tour.
Mark counts on a committed team built around him. For the team, it will be also important to show themselves in any situation possible.
“With seven stages for the sprinters, one TTT and two ITT, we can be protagonists in almost half the stages in the Tour.
“That is without counting riders like Chavanel and Terpstra, who have the ability to play a role in medium mountain stages.
The goals of the team are to try to win a few stages, be protagonists, and be a presence. The team wants to show its ability to stay united as a group.
“We believe the team is not only the sum of great individuals. What can make a difference for our team is the teamwork, to stay together and reach common goals as we did in the Giro d'Italia.
“I think when it comes to OPQS, we’ve shown how unique riders can fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Our Tour de France selection features eight nationalities of nine riders.
“We are an example of the globalization of cycling, and have already proven that such diversity can come together as a cohesive unit.
The team's last success in the race came in 2010, when Sylvain Chavanel won two stages and also spent two days in the maillot jaune, and Lefevere added: “We missed the victory at the Tour in the last few years.
"We really want to go for it and then see on the road day-by-day what kind of opportunities we can have."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.