Ludo Dierckxsens, 36 years old, does not lose his enthusiasm for racing - "I am really impatient to see us all work together," says the man from Kasterlee.
”Gerard Bulens (DS Landbouwkrediet Colnago), in my opinion, will make a success of this team, it is the perfect cocktail between youth, talent and experience. The arrival of Tom Steels and Ludovic Capelle in our line up only adds to my confidence for the future. Tom is a rider of true class who is a great addition to any team. With him as team mate it increases our chances of success appreciably."
"And in cycling success brings success! Steels is without question our flag carrier, but even without him we have great young riders in the team, if they fulfill their potential the sky is the limit! For my part, I have already completed two one week training courses in Spain. We set out again Wednesday for Italy where we will remain training until the season starts in Bessèges."
Ludovic Capelle the two years spent at AG2R have not impressed “le Namurois” in regard to their man management style. The former belgium champion said - "The three times that Vincent Lavenu, the Team manager, did speak to me, it was each time to talk to me in a negative way. Financially and structurally, the French have nothing to learn, but in regard to man management, they have not even begun!"
Ludovic Capelle did gain one thing from his time with AG2r - a great friendship with Estonian sprinter extra-ordinaire Jaan Kirsipuu. Indeed the French journalists, always keen for a pictorial image in their writing, have often described Capelle as the “poisson pilote” (pilot fish) for the prolific Estonian Champion.
"I stayed with Jaan this winter for ten days in Estonian - we even went out on mountain bikes in the snow."
Then Capelle went to Benidorm, his second training spell in Spain, much loved by cyclists throughout Europe for winter training.
Capelle feels well prepared for the coming tests of strength and willpower and has found his new team have a slightly different philosophy regarding man management -
"Gerard Bulens seems to know exactly what to say. He breathes confidence, which makes you feel good, I have had more contact with Bulens in a few weeks than I did with Lavenu in two years!"
So what will the “poisson pilote” be doing in the red and white shirt of Landbouwkrediet-Colnago this season?
"What I did for Kirsipuu at AG2r I will do for Tom Steels. When Tom is fully fit and all things are equal, Tom is “le plus explosif” - period. At his best he is equal to Cipollini!"
From a pesonal perspective Capelle has positive plans -
”Very honestly, I see myself doing well in races such as Waregem, Isbergues, Paris-Brussels or once again the Championship of Belgium."
On the World cup races Ludovic Capelle would like make a good showing at the Paris-Roubaix.
"I love the pavés of l' Enfer du Nord. I believe that I can get a top ten placing in this race."
Ludovic will start the l'Etoile de Bessèges and the Tour de Rhodes before heading North for the Belgium countryside and the spring Classics.
Tom Steels, Ludovic Capelle, Yuri Metlushenko, Ludo Dierckxsens, Tony Bracke, Marc Streel and Johan Vertrepen, such could be, in a few weeks, the men who will impose their law in the sprints disputed in the 4 corners of Europe. In this order (more or less), these could form a train as frightening and as dreaded as we have seen with Mario Cipollini's “Zebra Train” of last season.
Steels is convinced of it.
"With only a little training in the specific and specialized sprint finish I have seen our potential. And we have nore than just a good sprint finish to offer - we have riders of potential for the Classics and stage races, large or small."
Steels refers in particular to the Ukrainian Popovych (3rd in the general classification of Giro 2002 for a spell last year) and the Russian Timochine, both leaders of the Under 23 UCI rankings, during their last year in the amateurs (respectively in 2001 and 2002).
Steels is also full of praise for Yuri Metlushenko, (who nearly losat an eye when falling heavily last year in the l'Étoile de Bessèges). "He has the stature of the true sprinter," continues Tom, "and, on a bicycle, he is a true kamikaze! If he manages to control his energy, he will quickly get results."
”Yuri Metlushenko, his style, inevitably reminds me a certain Wilfried Nelissen, but the Ukrainian probably has stronger legs!"
Steels is more than happy with his winter preparation - "I have not had such a good winter for a long time. I have been working well and my first feelings are particularly good. I know that this year will be one of the redemption for me. I will try to gain a success as soon as possible, just to find confidence. An early victory, is always good to take, for the team too. I am completely ready to endorse the role of leader in all the Classic races if the form is there..."
Landbouwkrediet-Colnago Feburary Campaign
02/02/2003 - GP Costa delli Etruschi (Italie)
04/02/2003 - GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise (France)
05-09/02/2003 - Etoile de Bessèges (France)
12/16/02/2003 - Tour Méditerranéen (France)
18/02/2003 - Trophée Laigueglia (Italie)
19-22/02/2003 - Tour de Ligurie (Italie)
19-23/02/2003 - International Tour of Rhodes (Grèce)
22/02/2003 - Tour du Haut Var (France)
23/02/2003 - Classic Haribo (France)
With thanks to - http://www.dhnet.be/