Omega Pharma-Quick Step checks out Ronde van Vlaanderen course
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Omega Pharma-Quick Step checks out Ronde van Vlaanderen course

by Ben Atkins at 3:30 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Tour of Flanders
Tom Boonen seeks to join the immortals with third victory in Vlaanderens Mooiste

tom boonenWhile many of his teammates were riding the second stage of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde today, Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Classics captain Tom Boonen was leading a reconnaissance ride around the course of Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen. The team rode a total of 165km, including all three laps of the closing section of the race, which meant scaling both the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg three times each.

With Boonen were Nikolas Maes, Gert Steegmans, Kevin De Weert and Matteo Trentin, while Sylvain Chavanel, Dries Devenyns and Niki Terpstra - the other three member’s of the Ronde team - were racing in De Panne.

“I think it is important to look at the parcours,” said directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters after the ride. “However, it's important to also look at the tactics with the slightly different parcours. For all of the teams this is new. Many have questions, now that we're looking at the Kwaremont and the Patersberg three times, which we've known for a while now has been the final. I think we need to look at the situation of the race. Next we will meet together and discuss the parcours and tactics and what we must do on Sunday.”

Current weather conditions in Flanders are near perfect for racing, with some even remarking that the absence of wind is making the high speed stages in De Panne a little dangerous. While the weekend is expected to remain dry, it is certainly expected to change, with far less sunshine forecast.

“The weather on Sunday is supposed to be only 10 degrees,” said Peeters. “There will also be a little more wind, but we will see how that affects the race.”

The Ronde van Vlaanderen had finished in Meerbeke, on the outskirts of Ninove, since 1973 - with the combination of the Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg coming as the final climbs since 1988 - and so nobody in the current generation of riders knowing any other finale. The switch to Oudenaarde, with the three shrinking circuits based on the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, has not been popular with everybody in Flanders, but Peeters is keen to see the race judged on different criteria.

“It is the riders who make the race, not just the parcours,” he said. “If the peloton is too close together, the course is not that hard. But with the Tour of Flanders, we know it can break open after any corner. You need very good legs when that happens, and Tour of Flanders is then a hard race.”

Boonen is currently enjoying his best period of form for many years, having taken his fourth Tour of Qatar, stages in the Tour de San Luis and Paris-Nice, and - most significantly - a fifth E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and a third Gent-Wevelgem.

Should the former World champion take his third Ronde victory on Sunday, he will join his compatriot and former mentor Johan Museeuw as the only riders to have taken three victories in the Ronde, and three in Paris-Roubaix. His Gent and E3 victories though, as well as a number of others in Semi-Classics such as the Scheldeprijs and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, would surely elevate him over even Museeuw, and set him apart as one of the most successful cobble riders in history.


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