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"Omloop is first race of the season in Belgium. Everyone is excited about it. It's a race a bit different from the other Classics because it's the first one, but also tactically the teams tend to ride it differently than how th...

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ANDREW FENN

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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GERT STEEGMANS

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GUILLAUME VAN KEIRSBULCK

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ILJO KEISSE

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KUURNE-BRUXELLES-KUURNE

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MARTIN VELITS

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MATTEO TRENTIN

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NIKI TERPSTRA

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NIKOLAS MAES

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OMLOOP HET NIEUWSBLAD

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STIJN VANDENBERGH

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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26.02.2014 @ 21:13 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

For the first time since the Tour of Flanders, Tom Boonen will live up at a major cobbled classic when he takes to the start line for Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as leader of a formidable Omega Pharma-Quick Step Team. The multiple monument winner will be joined by last year's runner-up Stijn Vandenbergh, cyclo-cross world champion Zdenek Stybar, and Tour of Qatar winner Niki Terpstra in what is undoubtedly the strongest team in the race.

 

After a disastrous 2013 season, Tom Boonen is back in the races that he loves the most when he lines up as the Omega Pharma-Quick Step leader for Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The Belgian spearheads a formidable roster that includes several potential winners of the race.

 

Boonen got his 2013 season off to a terrible start when an elbow infection saw him play catch-up as he tried to reach peak condition for the classics. He ended up crashing out of the Tour of Flanders and later had to put an temporary end to his season due to a saddle sore.

 

This year he is back in the saddle and based on the early races he is back to his best. He won two stages of the Tour of Qatar and finished 2nd behind teammate Niki Terpstra. Now he is ready to test himself on the roads that he prefers more than any other.

 

Boonen always has two early-season moments where he tests his condition. One is the Tour of Qatar while the other is the Taaienberg in the Omloop Het Nieusblad. Barring accident, it is almost a guarantee that the Belgian will kick off the race finale when he creates the first crucial selection by launching a fierce acceleration on the steep cobbled climb.

 

The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is like a mini Tour of Flanders but surprisingly it is the only Belgian classics that Boonen has never won. He got close two years ago when he was beaten into second by Sep Vanmarcke in a close sprint and this year he hopes to finally fill the gap in his palmares.

 

Boonen won't be the only option for the Belgian super team that also includes Tour of Qatar winner Terpstra, cyclo-cross world champion Zdenek Stybar, last year's runner-up Stijn Vandenbergh, Qatar best young rider Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, upcoming classics 

Matteo Trentin, and strongmen Gert Steegmans and Iljo Keisse.

 

"Omloop is first race of the season in Belgium," Tom Boonen said. "Everyone is excited about it. It's a race a bit different from the other Classics because it's the first one, but also tactically the teams tend to ride it differently than how they do the other cobbled Classics. There are a lot of riders in good condition and there will be a great fight to stay in the front. But we have a good and balanced team, and we are looking forward to this race to try and get a good result. As usual the wind will be a factor. It will influence the race for sure."

 

"It's the first time this year that we hit the roads of Flanders," Sport Director Wilfried Peeters said. "It's a really good team but it will be important to be in the final with the most riders possible. We will have a competitive team but also several other teams have good selections. There is also a chance for a few showers and it will be windy, so the weather will be important to determine what kind of race we will face."

 

The next day Boonen will be back in action for the Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne which usually ends in a bunch sprint. For that race, the team will bring in fast rider Andrew Fenn, Martin Velits, and Nikolas Maes who will replace Stybar, Keisse, and Steegmans.

 

Boonen has always played the race in Kuurne a bit differently and has often stayed away from the final bunch sprint. Nonetheless, he is a past two-time winner of the race and he would love to be the outright record holder in the race that was last year cancelled due to bad weather.

 

"We have a very good group," Peeters continued. "Last year we didn't do the race due to the snow, but this year there will be no problem. In general our team is on a good level. All riders are good for this kind of parcours and we are ready for all scenarios. There could be a breakaway or a small group, or even a bunch sprint. We have the possibility to put good riders in place for any situation."

 

Omega Pharma-Quick Step for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Zdenek Stybar, Stijn Vandenbergh, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Matteo Trentin, Iljo Keisse, and Gert Steegmans

 

Omega Pharma-Quick Step for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Matteo Trentin, Andrew Fenn, Martin Velits, and Nikolas Maes

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