Last Friday, Baboco Cycling Team held its Team Presentation in Aalter, Belgium. Entering its second season, the team has refocused its efforts on young promising riders. Leading them is returning Polish National Champion Mariusz Gil.
The team’s inaugural season was a trying one. While they had the big draw of three-time world champion Erwin Vervecken on the squad, they also suffered a devastating turn of events that saw them gain and lose a current World Championship jersey. A couple of months after Baboco’s under-23 rider Pawel Szczepaniak won the World Championships in the Czech Republic last January, he was handed an eight-year suspension due to his positive doping result for EPO.
Even so, the team not only moved forward but developed a solid bond between the riders and the management.Gil explains, “With the troubles last year, I am happy the team continues and that I can again be with the same guys, and the new guys too. Everyone is friendly, like a little family. We have no troubles with anybody.”
While the team presentation was filled with the laughter and pranks typical of young guys, racing is something each and every one of them takes seriously. For one brief moment in the back room, where the riders waited for their turn in the spotlight on stage to state their season’s intentions, the solemnity of the moment broke through when one rider said, “I am more nervous now than for a race.” All others nodded in agreement.
Gil’s intentions for the season remain the same as last year. “I want to do every World Cup as well as possible and finish top 15 in the overall classification. I also want to have a good showing in the big races in Belgium. I don’t know if it’s possible since I am not as good as I was last year in the beginning of the season, but I hope the best condition will come in the following months.”
Just like the last six years, Gil will be based in Belgium for easier travel and support. “I will be home in Poland only a little over two weeks during the season. I am used to doing this travel schedule for the past six years now. I can do six years more,” Gil said.
Joining the team is 23 year-old BKCP transfer Gianni Denolf. “From April 1st, I ride for Baboco and am very happy with the new team. I have everything I want and all is in order like the clothes, the bikes. I can’t complain.” As for his goals, Denolf adds, “I want to ride well in the UCI-ranked races – to finish top 20. And try to win a non-UCI race this season. I am going to give priority to the UCI races though, so we will see what happens.”
Another surprise member recently added to the team is American Christine Vardaros. She spontaneously joined Baboco Cycling Team the day of the Team Presentation after suddenly parting ways with her former team due to a discrepancy in views on women in cycling. “I wanted a team that I can be inspired by to give my best. And in the Baboco Cycling Team I found it.”
Baboco Cycling Team has its priorities set as well. Team Manager Steven Baekelandt explains, “Our ultimate goal is to become a team like BKCP.” His approach to getting his riders to achieve this level is a bit different, though. Baekelandt continues, “The riders here get the chance to grow without any pressure.” Applying the same successful principles to the team as he has to his company Baboco, which handles coordination for construction projects, Baekelandt plans to grow the team step by step. With the level of respect and loyalty he has earned from his riders, he may reach his goal in no time as he grooms them for greatness.
Manager: Steven Baekelandt
Elite: Mariusz Gil (POL), Gianni Denolf, Sam Govaert, Kristof Zegers
Under-23: Ritchie Denolf, Floris De Tier, Xandro Meurisse, Valentijn Van de Velde
Juniors: Michael Vanthourenhout
Women: Christine Vardaros (USA)
Masters: Jochen Heylen
For more information, visit the team’s website: http://www.babococyclingteam.be/