Wilfried Peeters underlines a basic tenet: QuickStep is Boonen's team
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wilfried Peeters underlines a basic tenet: QuickStep is Boonen's team

by Jered Gruber at 2:10 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Quickstep director happy with Boonen's performance in Qatar, also pleased with Steegmans and Maes

QuickStep director sportif, Wilfried Peeters, can take a satisfied look back at the Tour of Qatar despite the fact that his top rider, Tom Boonen, wasn't able to win yet another Qatar overall title. Even without an overall win and only one stage win for the rider with more wins at the Tour of Qatar than anyone, (by far with 18) Boonen showed that he is back and well on his way to top fitness ahead of this spring's major appointments.

"I'm happy. We won a stage with Tom, and if it weren't for a flat on Wednesday's stage, he would have been fighting for [overall] victory," said the 1994 Gent-Wevelgem winner to Het Laatste Nieuws.

The uncertainties of 2010 seem to be but painful, distant memories following a reassuring visit to Qatar. While most everyone tacitly understands Tom Boonen's position within the QuickStep organization, Peeters goes out of his way to make it abundantly clear: QuickStep lives and dies on Tom Boonen's sword.

"Tom headed into this week very motivated. He is more than ever the leader of this team. If something happens to him, you immediately notice that the others are a little lost."

While the Spring will be defined by the resounding success or lack thereof for Tom Boonen, QuickStep's support crew around the former World Champion is vital to Boonen's hopes to add on to his win tally at either the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix, or both, if he manages to get that special year he had back in 2005. In that case, he'd have a World Championship title at the end of this season as well.

To have any chance, he'll need an impeccably prepared team around him, and the return of Gert Steegmans could be vital to achieving the goal of a team capable of stacking the whittled down selections in the Northern Classics. Steegmans has had a tough time of it over the last few years, but already, it looks like the return to Patrick Lefevere's stable has done the big Belgian a world of good.

"I am also very satisfied with Gert Steegmans. He put forth a good impression, confirming what he had already shown in training. Like Tom, Gert had a great winter, and it showed here."

With Tom Boonen heading toward 100% again and the great talent of Gert Steegmans seemingly on the road back to fulfilling the billing of his own immense talent, QuickStep's chances are looking better and better as the critical spring dates approach.

Looking back a little bit in years to one of QuickStep's really promising young talents, the future actually looks bright even when the words, Tom Boonen, aren't uttered. 24 year old Nikolas Maes showed himself more than capable in the dogfight that is the Tour of Qatar in its legendary crosswinds. Maes managed to continually make the front selections throughout the week in Qatar and managed to take home the Best Young Rider award - a nice present for the ever improving rider.

Peeters was pleased with the riding of the young Belgian, but knows that there's a lot more potential wrapped up in the rider who hails from Kortrijk and who will celebrate his 25th birthday the day before Paris-Roubaix.

"Every year, we see him making progress. Only he must believe more in himself. Nikolas is someone you have to pay attention to. If during the race something unexpected happens, you see him hesitate. Learning to improvise is something that you learn by experience, and Nikolas is only 24. He has great potential though. He can content in the finale of a Classic.

Following a rare slow spring in 2010, which was more to blame with an out of this world Fabian Cancellara than anything else, QuickStep looks ready to resume its dominant cobbled ways in 2011. This will be an important year for Lefevere's boys, as the team's meal ticket is punched in the first half of April - for better or worse, they're a one trick pony with a few other little sidebars. One down year is ok, but two? There's no question: QuickStep needs a big win this spring.

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