Omega Pharma-Quick Step sending powerful and ambitious team to the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Omega Pharma-Quick Step sending powerful and ambitious team to the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde

by Ben Atkins at 12:31 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics
Tom Boonen sits out tough, windy stage race again as he prepares for Sunday’s Ronde

sylvain chavanelOmega Pharma-Quick Step is sending an aggressive team to this week’s Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, with ambitions to take overall honours as well as stage victories. The race, whose result is often dictated by the prevailing weather systems that come off the nearby North Sea, can often be dangerous; its combination of cobbles, climbs and crosswinds however, can make it a useful bit of last minute preparation for the Ronde van Vlaanderen the following Sunday.

“As always, it’s going to be a difficult race with tense stages and lots of athletes vying to stand out,” explained the team’s coach and directeur sportif Tom Steels, who took three stages of the race during his career. “Already the first stage will cover a challenging route. The second stage with the Kemmel is suited for sprinters. Our men going for the classification, [Michal] Kwiatkowski, [Sylvain] Chavanel and [Niki] Terpstra will have to stay out in front every day so they can play their cards in the final time trial.

“The squad’s recent performances have motivated our guys,” he added. “They are all ready to give a good race.”

Kwiatkowski is in his first year with the Belgian team, but last year was part of the all-conquering RadioShack squad in the race. The Polish rider finished third overall, behind teammate Sébastien Rosseler after they both posted fast times in the final, stage 3b, tome trial.

Chavanel’s fourth place overall in last year’s race led on to his second place in the Ronde van Vlaanderen three day’s later. Terpstra however - who led last year’s race after day two - saw his super-aggressive spring campaign come to a sudden end as a freak gust of wind blew his bike from beneath him during the time trial.

Conspicuously missing from the team will be its Classics captain Tom Boonen, whose near-perfect season so far saw him win Friday’s E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem. Although a number of strong performances in the Driegaagse have gone on to be matched in the Ronde, the following Sunday - with Peter Van Petegem and Alessandro Ballan winning both in 1999 and 2007 respectively, and 2006 De Panne winner Leif Hoste going on to take second in de Ronde - Boonen has rarely ridden the race in the past.

Instead, the former World champion whose performance this spring has made him the outstanding favourite to take a third Ronde victory on Sunday, will sit out the often dangerous stage race.

The team will not be short of sprinting prowess however, with Italian Francesco Chicchi, who is already looking for his sixth victory of the season, alongside Briton Andy Fenn, who is looking for his third.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step for the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde
Sylvain Chavanel, Francesco Chicchi, Dries Devenyns, Andrew Fenn, Iljo Keisse, Michal Kwiatkowski, Niki Terpstra and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck


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