Specialized calls it quits, Eddy Merckx to back Quick Step?
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Specialized calls it quits, Eddy Merckx to back Quick Step?

by Conal Andrews at 7:01 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

The Quick Step team of Tom Boonen is expected to announced today that it will join up with Eddy Merckx as the bike supplier for next season. It has called a press conference for this afternoon where the new partner will be named; however Belgian media is already reporting that the Eddy Merckx company will make its reappearance to the ProTour.

The team confirmed today that the three year partnership with Specialized would end prior to the start of the 2010 season.

“It is with mutual respect and appreciation for what we have achieved together that Patrick [Lefevere] and I want to announce that Specialized and Quick Step will part ways in 2010, “ said Specialized founder and president Mike Sinyard. “I truly appreciate all that Patrick and the team have done for our brand and sport.”

Lefevere was similarly complimentary. “Over the three years we have been together, no other team has matched our achievements, and Specialized has been a big part of those results by developing bikes and equipment that give our riders a real edge.”

However, despite the soundbites, there have been persistent rumours that the company was unhappy with Quick Step and, specificially, the cocaine positives involving its top rider Tom Boonen.

Conscious perhaps that it had to broaden its range and not depend on the Belgian, who flopped spectacularly in the Tour de France, Quick Step had been chasing Alberto Contador for several months. The team stated that the bike company would be willing to contribute to his salary. However yesterday’s news that the Spaniard would stay with Astana put an end to that bid.

Specialized already agreed a €700,000 deal with the double Tour de France winner, and it is expected that the whole Astana team will also use the machines. The only obstacle to that is if the team is refused a ProTour licence; in that case, Contador has said that he will leave, with the bike deal likely to follow him to whatever team he chooses.

In the three years that it has been working with the team, Specialized had seen its bikes take several major wins, including two Paris-Roubaix crowns with Boonen, two Tour of Flanders titles with Stijn Devolder, and the 2007 world championship success of Paolo Bettini.

It said that the team had contributed directly to the development of bikes such as the Roubaix SL2, the Tarmac SL2 and the Tarmac SL3.

“The biggest benefit we get from sponsoring pro racing is the ability to build better products because the best riders push us to continually improve and take on new challenges,” said Sinyard. “Team Quick Step has helped us create bikes and equipment that are now available to every rider, straight from the shop. We are so grateful to the team and riders for these contributions.”

The Belgian squad recently denied that partnership would be broken. "With regards to [sponsorship of] the Astana cycling team I do not know,” team spokesman Tegner said to tuttobici.it. “But for sure the Quick Step team will race with Specialized until 2011, as the team headed by Patrick Lefevere has a legal contract.”

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