Who are the sponsor? Omega Pharma are a pharmaceutical company, whilst Quick Step make wooden flooring.
2012 Ranking: 4th.
Past Stars: Richard Virenque, Michael Rodgers, Paolo Bettini, Stijn Devolder.
Selected Team Palmares: 2005 World Champion, 4x Paris-ROubaix, 3x Tour of Flanders, 2007 Tour de France Green Jersey, 6x Tour de France Stages (all Tom Boonen), 2011 World Champion, 23x Tour de France stages, 2011 Tour de France Green Jersey, 10x Giro d’Italia stages, 3x Vuelta a Espana stages, 2010 Points competition Vuelta a Espana, 2009 Milan San-Remo (all Mark Cavendish), 2011 and 2012 World Time Trial Champion, Stage, Tour de France 2011 (all Tony Martin), Stages, Tour de France (2008, 2x 2010, Sylvain Chavanel), World Team Time Trial Champions 2012.
Brief Team History: OPQS have been around in various forms since Mapei, which morphed into Quick Step. Manager Lefervre kept the classics focus with Paolo Bettini the key rider, and they had some glory years from 2005-07 where he and Boonen kept the rainbow jersey in the team for three years. They did however keep looking for a GC rider, trying without success Michael Rodgers, Jose Rujano, and signing Bernhard Kohl before he tested positive (he never rode for the team). Signing Leipheimer also seemed to prove the team had a GC curse. However, after a dire 2010, and with some Czech billions keeping them afloat, Omega Pharma jumped ship from their Belgian rivals Omega Pharma Lotto to bring the technologically brilliant HTC gurus, half the team and Brian Holm and Rolf Aldag to Quick Step to made the superteam that was arguably the best of 2012.
Last year: Anything was going to be better then their abject 2011, but boy did they step up. Tom Boonen went on a classics rampage, helped partially by the injury induced absence of key rival Fabian Cancellara, but outperformed anything his rival had previously done by obliterating the field at Paris Roubaix to win a 4th title just a week after winning a third Tour of Flanders to equal the records for both and becoming the holder of the most cobbled classics of any rider in history. He then proceeded to rattle off the Belgian championships as well. Their Tour de France blues continued however, with bad luck and punctures costing them the best team accolade in the prologue, then injury forcing Chavanel and Martin out. They recovered strongly though, with Dario Cataldo winning a stage of the Vuelta despite looking like he was dying. They then won the inaugural TTT at the worlds, and Martin defended his TT title as well.
Transfer dealings: They’ve finally managed to capture the man they’ve been after since he burst onto the scene in 2008 – Mark Cavendish. This helps for many reasons – Boonen doesn’t have to ride the Tour, and has less pressure on him due to Cavendish’s near guaranteed win rate. Interestingly, they’ve actually lost men you would have expected to be part of his lead out train in Chicchi, Ciolek and Brammier, which is odd, and the loss of Dario Cataldo shows they really are just concentrating on their strengths rather then GC now. The addition of Gianni Meersman, who jumped ship from Lotto-Belisol at the 11th hour as well as GianLuca Brambilla will make up for the loss of the stalling Ciolek however.
Who are the star riders? OPQS are blessed with talents in two departments: the classics and the sprints. For the classics, they have the now undisputed cobble master Tom Boonen, whom has more than capable lieutenants in Sylvain Chavanel and Niki Terpstra, who could probably win the classics themselves if they wanted. Of course, they now also have Mark Cavendish, who gives them the fastest sprinter in the world, and when you take into account they also have Gert Steegmans, who has been somewhat quiet of late, you realise that in their team they have men who’ve won the last five stages on the Champs-Elysees on their squad (Boonen also won in 2004). These days, OPQS also have Tony Martin to take world titles as well as leaders jerseys in short stage races and prologues, and speaking of world champions, they have Zdnek Stybar, ex cyclo-cross world champ, now concentrating on the road for them.
Fashion police: Last years kit was excellent, and this years is pretty much the same except for the black dots and the removal of the blue bands on the shorts. It makes them look a bit smarter perhaps, but they’ll be hoping that their main men, Boonen, Cavendish and Martin will be in the Belgian champions jersey, the yellow jersey and leaders jerseys when the end of year photos are sent around.
What are their targets? Boonen will again look to the cobbled classics, as will the core of the team, although he and Cavendish will come into conflict over Milan San-Remo, which if Boonen won, would elevate him into the high echelons of cycling greatness, and Ghent-Whevelghem, a race Cavendish seems to think he can win, even if his comments on doing so coincided with them making the race harder. After that, the first yellow jersey of the centenary Tour will be the target with a flat(ish) opening stage for Cavendish, followed by the green jersey as they build the Tour team around him and then launch Martin at the Worlds and seek to defend their TTT.
What are they likely to achieve? Boonen should win a monument, but he should be happy with ‘a’, as in singular, as after last year everyone will be out to get him and he’ll effectively have to rely on Cancellara to act as a foil for the pair to get away. Neither he or Cavendish will probably win Milan San-Remo, which hasn’t been a proper sprint since 2010 and Oscar Freire’s win, but the Manxman will take solace in the yellow jersey even if he will be in a tight battle with Sagan and Greipel for green. Cavendish may go for the Giro point jersey instead. Martin will have his work cut out to retain his TT title, but all in all the team will be successful, if not as bouyant as 2012.
Components: The team ride Specialized bikes, using the Venge, Roubaix and tarmac models, as well as Zipp components and wheels and SRAM red groupsets. Vermarc make the clothing.
The Big Question(s): How many, if any, of the Classics will Boonen be able to defend? Will Cavendish’s lead out train have any teething problems?