Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team hosted a successful Under 23 "Training Camp" for a second year in a row.
According to Sports Director Tom Steels, 16 riders attended with diverse talents and nationalities — including, for the first time, a rider from Algeria.
"At the beginning there was a little bit of searching," Steels said. "Especially the young ones to find out languages they speak, who they are and everything else but after the second day, they really formed a group. They started even playing during training with some smaller tactics. I feel like the group was very good.
One day, the team took the young riders to the Kemmelberg, one of the famous mountains of Gent Wevelgem.
"A lot of riders never saw it in their live," Steels said. "It was nice to see riders who have not ridden on cobbles even one time, to see how they did."
After training, the riders got to watch Matteo Trentin win Gullegem Koerse in Belgium.
"They all enjoyed the day," Steels said. "After that we had a night where they could really socialize with each other, and after that point you could see they knew each other and might ride together even after this training."
Boonen and other riders from the team were in attendance during camp, and the young riders saw much of how the team operates behind the scenes. They were able to see the bus, and how team mechanics work, for some examples.
"They saw a little bit of the atmosphere," Steels said. "Patrick Lefevere was there too. For us, it's a good experience and gives us a chance to say who we are, what pro cycling is these days, and for them, it was hopefully a good experience. It's good for them to know just how it goes on a real professional level. We've already received good comments from them. We were told it was a nice training camp, and they enjoyed the welcome we had for young riders in a professional environment."
Steels said the youth is very important for the future of professional cycling.
"We all think every generation has its talent," Steels said. "It's also good to know them, and good to know every year how the young guys think about pro cycling. It's good we can tell them how pro cycling is and how they need to be in shape, or maybe send them in the right direction. We are telling them 'OK, this is really what high level cycling is like.' Some of them are still too young, but then, at least they know if they want to continue with cycling, what they are going to face. Other ones it's a matter of choosing the right moment to pick up their talent and come over to professional cycling."