Important weekend ahead for Omega Pharma-Quick Step as Openingsweekend kicks off the Belgian season
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Important weekend ahead for Omega Pharma-Quick Step as Openingsweekend kicks off the Belgian season

by Ben Atkins at 11:21 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Team also competing in the Sud-Ardèche, where Iljo Keisse will start his road season

tom boonenThe Openingsweekend of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne starts what has historically been the most important period of the year for the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team and, despite signing a number of all-rounders and Grand Tour contenders over the winter, the Spring Classics remain a focus. The team has taken both races in the past, although none of the current squad has won the Omloop; Boonen has two podiums in the Saturday race though, and has won in Kuurne twice.

The three-time Paris-Roubaix, and two-time Ronde van Vlaanderen winner will be the team’s leader on both days, with last year’s Ronde runner-up Sylvain Chavanel as co-captain in the Omloop. The Frenchman will sit out Sunday’s race in Kuurne though, with the team drafting in a number of sprint specialists, including double Mallorca-winning British neo-pro Andy Fenn.

Boonen’s relationship with lead out man Gert Steegmans was properly reinstated in the tour of Qatar, after Steegmans’ return to the team last year; the 31-year-old tw-time Tour de France stage winner will be there for his captain on both days.

"It will be an important weekend for our team, as always," said directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters, who spent much of his riding career in the service of Flemish legend Johan Museeuw in these very races, and will guide the team’s current riders from the team car. "The good state of form of many athletes in our team allowed us to make some technical choices based on the different routes we will be riding on. On Saturday, we will have cyclists that are more comfortable with cobblestone slopes, while on Sunday we will have more sprinters, seen as there may well be a sprint to end the race.

“Boonen, [Gerard] Ciolek, Steegmans and [Martin] Velits will compete in both races. There may also be changes in Sunday's team, based on Saturday's results. Terpstra won't take part to the Omloop. Niki came back sick from Algarve, with fever. He's doing better now but we don't want to risk, considering the low amount of training he has been able to go through in the past few days. Normally he will be able to take the start in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne."

Last year’s Openingsweekend races were won by a Dutchman - Sebastian Langeveld in the Omloop - and an Australian - SJ Sutton in Kuurne - which was proclaimed a disaster in Belgium; Omega Pharma-Quick Step plans to put things right this time.

Meanwhile, in the south of France, the team will be sending a squad to compete in Sunday’s Boucles de Sud-Ardèche, which will largely be made up of riders that competed in the recent Trofeo Laigueglia in northwest Italy. The rolling race will also be the 2012 road debut for track star Iljo Keisse, who has been resting after a successful winter that saw him the number one six-day rider of the season.

“After the Trofeo Laigueglia, we stopped in the south of France with the team and organized a brief camp while waiting to compete on Sunday," explained directeur sportif Davide Bramati. "The team is motivated and training sessions are progressing according to our program that alternates road bicycle sessions to time-trial bicycle sessions. Our objective is to be amongst the protagonists of the race."

Omega Pharma-Quick Step team for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (1.HC)
Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel, Gerald Ciolek, Dries Devenyns, Gert Steegmans, Matteo Trentin, Stijn Vandenbergh, Martin Velits

Omega Pharma-Quick Step team for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (1.1)
Tom Boonen, Gerald Ciolek, Andrew Fenn, Nikolas Maes, Gert Steegmans, Niki Terpstra, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Martin Velits

Omega Pharma-Quick Step team for Les Boucles de Sud-Ardèche (1.1)
Marco Bandiera, Matthew Brammeier, Kevin De Weert, Michal Golas, Iljo Keisse, Jerome Pineau, Kristof Vandewalle, Julien Vermote


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