Tom Boonen enters this weekend’s opening classics offering with less confidence than a year ago, but his Omega Pharma-Quick Step squad is prepared to play aggressor on the cobblestones of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Circuit Het Nieuwsblad) and work to deliver a sprint at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
“I don’t feel as confident as I did last year for the race,” Boonen said when he met the press on Wednesday. “But it is what it is for the moment. I think right now I just need to try to do as many races as possible. I have as many question marks as everybody else about my shape. I really don’t know; I have no idea how I will react after 200 kilometers, hill after hill, cobblestone after cobblestone. Today at training I tried to go a little bit faster and it was still hard, but we’ll see.”
Boonen arrives to the weekend’s semi-classics after starting his season late, at the Tour of Oman, after undergoing surgery to stem an infection in his elbow, which he injured in a January mountain bike crash. The Belgian champion won Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne in 2007 and 2009 and will look for an important indicator of his fitness ahead of Paris-Nice and Milano-Sanremo.
He said that his teammates Zdenek Stybar, Sylvain Chavanel, and Niki Terprstra are going well.
“As for my competitors, I haven’t really seen all of them,” Boonen said. “I think [BMC Racing’s Greg] Van Avermaet was going good in Oman. For the rest, I didn’t really see all of them. They were all racing in [Volta ao] Algarve, or the races in Mallorca when I wasn’t there. I will do my best regardless of the condition of my competitors, and hopefully I can get a good result.”
Omega Pharma director Wilfried Peeters said Boonen would decide whether he would double up with both races after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday. The team will ride to deliver defending champion Mark Cavendish to a sprint on Sunday in Kuurne.
“On Saturday we can count on riders able to be protagonists on the cobblestones,” Peeters said. “We will see how Tom will be, but Tom is not the only weapon we have: Riders such as Chavanel and Terpstra are motivated for the race as are the rest of the team.
“For sure we will start [on Sunday] with the aim to bring Cavendish to the final sprint. He won last year and he is in good shape. In case of a nervous race we will have other riders able to enter in the main actions.”