Mark Cavendish and Omega Pharma-Quickstep in good shape for 2014 season

Belgian team targets more race victories as new campaign draws closer

With 55 race victories to their name in 2013, and a winter of solid investment and hard work under their belts, 2014 is shaping to be a big season for Omega Pharma-Quickstep.

Led by British champion Mark Cavendish, the Belgian team have reunited the Manx Missile with former lead-out man Mark Renshaw, while Rigoberto Uran (from Team Sky) and Jan Bakelants (from Radioshack-Leopard) have also arrived.

British champion Mark Cavendish has been finetuning preparations for the new season at Omega Pharma-Quickstep’s winter training camps (pic: OPQS/Tim de Waele)

Cavendish will have to wait for his first professional outing back alongside Renshaw, with the Australian not included in the six-man squad announced for this month’s Tour de San Luis.

But all eyes will be on the Manxman in 2014 from the moment he kicks off his campaign in Argentina on January 20 however, as he builds towards the Tour de France.

His desire to win the opening stage of the Tour, which finishes in his mother’s hometown of Harrogate, has already been made clear as he bids to wear the maillot jaune for the first time.

Veteran sprinter Alessandro Petacchi – whom Cavendish will join as one of few riders to have worn the leader’s jersey at all three Grand Tours should he succeed – is also likely to feature heavily in the Manxman’s season.

Cavendish has already enjoyed great success with Petacchi as his lead-out man, not least at the Tour of Britain, and the two will be looking to start the season with success together in San Luis.

Former world champion Tom Boonen hopes to bounce back from an injury-disrupted 2013 campaign (pic: OPQS/Tim de Waele)

Another former world champion, Tom Boonen, will also start his season in Argentina with the 33-year-old Belgian hoping to reclaim his title as Classics king this year.

Having won an unprecedented ‘Grand Slam’ by taking all four of the cobbled Classics in 2012, Boonen suffered an injury-hit campaign in 2013 and could only watch as long-term rival Fabian Cancellara (Trek) dominated on the cobbles.

The Swiss superstar is likely to feature at the sharp end again this year, while 2013 Gent-Wevelgem winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale) has also stated his ambition to win all four.

Nevertheless, with 15 career victories across the four races to his name, the 2005 World Champion should not be written off.

Three-time world time trial champion Tony Martin is likely to go head-to-head with Fabian Cancellara in 2014 (pic: OPQS/Tim de Waele)

Another Omega Pharma-Quickstep man likely to face direct competition from Spartacus this year is three-time world time trial champion Tony Martin.

After his comprehensive victory in Florence last year, Martin could find himself head-to-head with Cancellara and Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) once more at next year’s Tour de France.

The flat, 54km time trial scheduled for the penultimate day of the race is already set to be a pivotal stage in deciding the final overall outcome of the 101st Tour, but a potential battle between Martin, Wiggins and Cancellara would be more than just a sideshow.

Martin will also be gunning for success against the clock in Ponferrada, Spain, at next year’s World Championships where a largely flat 47.1km route awaits.

Although there will be a sharp climb to the Reservoir of Barcena, Martin has proved he is more than capable of tackling climbs with his recent efforts at the Vuelta a Espana and Tour of Beijing providing evidence.

And with a fast, technical descent to the finish line awaiting it is hard to look past a fourth world title for the German in 2014.

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