Gert Steegmans’ nervous and fierce return to racing with Quick Step
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Monday, February 7, 2011

Gert Steegmans’ nervous and fierce return to racing with Quick Step

by Ben Atkins at 5:45 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Qatar
 
Qatar’s first road stage sees Belgian in the lead group as the wind smashes the peloton

Gert SteegmansSixth in yesterday’s prologue, just 6 seconds behind Rabobank’s winner Lars Boom, Gert Steegmans has made a fast return to the top with his old Quick Step team after two years with Katusha and RadioShack. In today’s first road stage Steegmans, along with young teammate Nikolas Maes were part of the 18-man group that carried their team leader Tom Boonen to stage victory and the overall race lead.

“So nervous, so fierce, what a race!” said Steegmans on Het Laatste Nieuws after the windy 145.5km stage that the leaders completed at an average speed of 48.64kph.

For Quick Step it was mission accomplished with Boonen taking the stage win and the gold jersey; Maes also picked up the white young riders jersey, and there was a prize for Steegmans too with victory in the second intermediate sprint.

This sprint was also part of the team’s grand plan for the stage, Steegmans said, but the first stage at 56km passed him by when he least expected it.

“The first intermediate sprint I didn’t even see,” he explained, “there was just a picture of two men on a sign. The second sprint was better, and I was able to win that; we had to try and take some seconds away from our rivals.”

With Boom back in the first chasing group, the 3 seconds that he picked up in that second sprint saw Steegmans take the race lead on the road.

With many of those in the 18-strong group classics specialists, including Boonen and Steegmans themselves, Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O’Grady (both Leopard Trek), Juan Antonio Flecha (TeamSky), and Andreas Klier and Roger Hammond (Garmin-Cervélo), it was apparently a relatively simple job for the strong men to pull away from the peloton in the crosswinds.

“To get away, all you had to do was ride consistently on the front,” Steegmans explained, “and you also had to have some luck. It wasn’t enough to just accelerate to escape today.”

Steegmans finished the stage in 15th place, 10 seconds behind Boonen after, job done, he was dropped by the sprinters in the closing kilometre; he now sits in 8th overall, 17 seconds behind his team leader.

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