Cervélo TestTeam promises more of the same as it prepares for the 2010 season with more confidence and a stronger base.
Cervélo barnstormed through its debut season last year, with stage victories in all three grand tours on the men’s side and winding up ranked No. 1 for the women.
Cervélo was one of the biggest surprises last year, a new team backed by the Cervélo bike brand that turned conventions on their head, putting such unorthodox ideals as product development and fan access alongside hard-nosed results.
The bet paid off. Without that pressure to perform, the team actually found its wings, delivering top results throughout the season.
“It’s been an unbelievable first year and thought it was not possible to put together a team like this,” said Gerard Vroomen, one of the principal owners of Cervélo. “We’ve made a small step and it’s a long journey, but we have the right people around us. We already know that 2010 will be even better. We’ve taken a lot of pressure off the riders, but we’ve seen that when the pressure is off, the results are better.”
The team had its official unveiling Sunday along Portugal’s Algarve coast. The core of the squad remains intact on both sides, with key additions for both the men’s and women’s squad that should continue to keep Cervélo in the headlines all season long.
For the men’s team, the focus on the grand tours and the spring classics won’t change, but they’re more ambitious on all fronts.
“We were good last year in the spring classics (with four podiums), but we want to win one this year,” said men’s director Jean-Paul Van Poppel. “We also want to do well in the grand tours, with Carlos (Sastre) for the GC in the Giro and Thor (Hushovd) again for the green in the Tour.”
Thor Hushovd and breakout star Heinrich Haussler will be the captains for Cervélo’s formidable classics outfit. Backed by veterans Jeremy Hunt, Roger Hammond and Andreas Klier, Haussler was second at Milan-San Remo and Tour of Flanders while Hushovd was third at San Remo and Paris-Roubaix.
“I have some unfinished business at San Remo,” Haussler said, who also won a stage at the Tour de France to confirm his arrival to the elite ranks. “We have big goals for the classics. We want to win one of them. If it’s me, Thor or Andreas (Klier), it doesn’t matter. If someone from the team wins, we all win.”
Hushovd also wants to win one of the big classics, ideally Roubaix, before taking on the stiff challenge of squaring off against Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) in defense of his green jersey.
“The green jersey will be a top goal. I know it won’t be easy because Cavendish is faster than me. I won the green jersey last year because I was the best sprinter,” Hushovd said. “I would also like to do well in the world championships. It’s an ideal course for me in Australia.”
Sastre will carry the team’s colors in the grand tours. The 2008 Tour de France champion is focusing on an all-out run at the Giro d’Italia in May and still hasn’t committed to racing the Tour.
“I want to first think about the Giro and do it in the best possible manner, then I will consider what’s next,” Sastre said. “Last year was a hard year for me, but I took a nice break and I have more motivation than ever to be at the front again. The Giro is best for me, with such hard climbs as Mortirolo, so I will first prepare for that.”
Cervélo sees the return of Ted King and Dominique Rollin, who both enjoyed excellent rookie seasons with the team. King will likely return to the Giro, with more responsibilities to help Sastre’s run for the maglia rosa, while Rollin will also see an expanded role on the team’s classic squad.
Newcomers include Xavier Tondo, ex-trackie Theo Bos and Joao Correia while some important losses are Simon Gerrans (Sky) and Hayden Roulston (HTC-Columbia).
The women’s team will be under pressure to top its 2009 season that saw the squad ranked No. 1 in the world, but new team manager Egon Van Kessel is confident they can pull it off.
“After the year we’ve had, to do better will not be easy. We want to be number one again,” Van Kessel said. “We’d like to perform as the best team and be very visible in all the races.”
The women’s squad is a mix of young, rising talent, like new arrival Elisabeth Armitstead, riding alongside established pros like Claudia Hausler and Emma Pooley.
“I had a very good season last year because I had a good team behind me,” Pooley said. “We’ll win even more races this season. I want to start well and aim for the Tour de l’Aude as my first goal of the season.”
Hausler, who won some big races last year, said the team’s depth give it its edge.
“We can be ever stronger than last year in the big stage races. We have two or three girls who can win, so that keeps the other teams under pressure,” she said. “We want to be aggressive and attack at the right moment.”
After concluding its training camp in Algarve, the team makes its season debut at the Etoile de Bèsseges and Tour of Qatar early next month.
Check back to VeloNews.com in the coming weeks for more in-depth interviews with all the top riders.