For the fourth year in a row, the Flemish Eddy Merckx cycling center in Ghent hosted the team presentation of Etixx – Quick-Step, cycling's most winningest squad in the past seasons.
Introduced to hundreds of cheering fans at the beginning of the evening, but also to the sponsors who back the team, the riders of the World Tour outfit went to the track for a series of races which saw them compete against each other. Among them was also Diederick Schelfhout, winner of the 2013 Belgium Paracycling Open, whose palmares includes victories on the road and track, as well as strong placings in international events.
"The fans created an unbelievable atmosphere, and we are glad we could put on a real show for them and our sponsors through our riders. The season is just around the corner and we hope to be as successful as in the past. The morale is high, the form is there, so let the racing begin", said the team's CEO, Patrick Lefevere.
For Daniel Martin – one of the eight riders to join Etixx – Quick-Step in the off-season – racing on the velodrome was quite an adventure. “I rode on the track just once before tonight, when I was 10 years old, for half an hour, but that doesn’t count. It was really good fun with this guys, but then we started racing, and it wasn’t fun anymore” – said the 29-year-old Irishman with big a smile – “but I’m sure that for the public it was a great experience.”
A winner of 11 Grand Tour stages throughout his career, Marcel Kittel was another rider who went to the track for the races which made him eager to finally hit the road season next month, at the Dubai Tour: "It was really nice, the fans created a great atmosphere and I enjoyed it. I'm very happy with my form following the training in Spain, I feel good and I'm very focused. Bottom line, I can't wait for the season to start in a couple of weeks."
Besides having fun, Tom Boonen was into the spotlight during the evening also for winning the sprint race, not long after triple time trial World Champion Tony Martin finished first in the elimination race: "I like coming here and being part of this dynamic presentation. It gives us riders an opportunity to be closer to the fans before the start of the season, to take pictures and talk with them. I'm glad to see how happy they are.