By Les Clarke
After being narrowly beaten by Davitamon-Lotto's Nico Mattan in last year's edition of Gent-Wevelgem, Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) will be out for revenge this year in edition 68. The finale of last year's race was marred by controversy, and after joining Rabobank in the off-season it appears as though the Spaniard has most factors in his favour - except for one thing - the all-conquering Quick.Step team.
Following Filippo Pozzato's win in Milan-San Remo [where Boonen helped the Italian to the win] and Boonen's triumph last Sunday [where Pozzato helped the Belgian to the win] the pair have formed quite the combination; so much so that Boonen elaborated on the fact he'd be willing to "give a present back to" Pozzato in the form of a victory in the midweek classic. The sign of a man supremely confident in his own ability, surely.
The Belgian superstar may well be discounting other contenders for the win, including CSC's Fabian Cancellara, T-Mobile's Andreas Klier and Liquigas' Luca Paolini. Klier has stated that he's in good form, and will want to make amends after a serious crash during last year's race. Paolini is keen to make up for misfortune in the Tour of Flanders last Sunday, where a puncture struck as Boonen attacked. The Quick.Step juggernaut will have to overcome the competition and the parcours, and although it isn't as openly challenging as the course for de Ronde, it offers plenty of hardship for riders already weary from a tough race just days earlier.
Cyclingnews will be covering the 68th Gent-Wevelgem live from 14:30 CEST/08:30 EDT (USA east)/05:30 PDT (USA west)/22:30 AEST (Australia east).