After an excellent first phase of the season, seeing victory in Milan-San Remo and Tour of Flanders as well as countless other good performances, Quick Step-Innergetic will now turn their attention to phase two: the Giro d’Italia and the other ProTour stage races in the next few months. The team's overall hopes lies with Juan Manuel Garate, who has finished in the Giro top ten three times, including fifth last year, with Classics star Paolo Bettini ably backing him up, on the prowl for stage victories and another stint in the maglia rosa. They will be supported by several talented workers, including Belgian champion Serge Baguet.
An oddity for a Spaniard, Juan Manuel Garate has performed consistently well in the Giro d’Italia. After breaking through with fourth overall in 2002, he has also finished tenth and fifth last year. Having transferred to Quick Step this winter, he remains their strongest Grand Tour overall option, and another top five finish will be hoped for. Moreover, the man from Irun will be have the motivation of wearing the Spanish road race champion’s jersey. Though this Giro looks particularly tough, and Garate lies eighth in the pre-race betting (odds of 35.00 with Unibet), if he is consistent throughout, he could finish highly.
Paolo Bettini, for so long the epitome of consistency and panache, seems to have been surpassed in the Quick Step pecking order by Tom Boonen, after some spirited but winless fruitless riding in the Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege With rumours of a lucrative winter move already in the air, the balding maestro will be keen on holding his Classics form for the first week of the race. “Il Grillo” will be particularly motivated for the citadel finish in Namur, a finish which appears tailor-made for him, as well as that in Charleroi: he won the first road stage of the race last year to take the maglia rosa and will be looking to do the same this time round, thus adding to his victory tally, which currently stands at four for the season. Either in the hills or on the flat, the versatile Bettini will be a challenger for victory, and is by far Quick Step’s best bet for a stage victory.
Veteran Serge Baguet heads the support team for these riders; he will also be looking to do well on home soil and on the hills which he is suited to. The same applies for the only other Belgian in the lineup, Jurgen Van de Walle. He abandoned the Giro, his only Grand Tour start to date, after stage two in 2004, so he’ll certainly be looking to last a bit longer this year. With third in the Tour du Haut Var his best finish this season, Van de Walle is a solid climber and could finish in the top fifty. Jose Antonio Garrido, initially signed from Paternina as Peccharoman's right-hand man, has proven himself as excellent mountain support and will be hoping to help countryman Garate when the going gets steeper.
Dutch riders Addy Engels and Remmert Wielinga were both touted as talents when they first broke into the mainstream, though both have suffered from a lack of results in recent years. However, Wielinga, after two years without a top ten, has shown a revival of late with Quick Step, winning the GP Chiasso and finishing twelfth at the recent Tour of Georgia. He will certainly be looking for a good ride here. In 2002, Engels – another ex-Rabobank rider – finished just inside the top twenty-five in the Giro after tenth on the queen stage to Folgaria. Last year, he finished in the middle of the pack here, though, and it is likely he’ll be consigned to the role of domestique again.
Quick Step have two of cycling’s most longest-serving riders in their Giro team – apart from Baguet, there is Davide Bramati. But while Baguet had a “break” from pro cycling between 1997 and 1999, stalwart Bramati has ridden every year since 1990, and has been with Mapei, and all its sponsor changes, since 1997. Almost 38, he will be the road captain, using his vast experience to help the younger guns; he is also acknowledged as one of the friendliest guys in the peloton.
The second and last Italian in the team is Leonardo Scarselli. Poached from Selle Italia after several years on Gianni Savio’s team, he will be a domestique for the team leaders, though he is also a very aggressive rider who is likely to up there in a few breakaways.
Quick Step-Innergetic for the 2006 Giro d'Italia
151 Serge Baguet
152 Paolo Bettini
153 Davide Bramati
154 Addy Engels
155 Juan Manuel Garate
156 Jose Antonio Garrido
157 Leonardo Scarselli
158 Jurgen Van De Walle
159 Remmert Wielinga