In Belgium, Tom Boonen is a national icon, a hero of the sport there thanks to his record-tying four Paris-Roubaix wins and triple Tour of Flanders titles. On the eve of his final Belgian race, the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday, preparations are underway for a massive celebration at the start in his hometown of Mol.
The Scheldeprijs course was designed specifically to give Boonen a trip down memory lane, forgoing the normal start in Antwerp to begin in Mol where he won the U23 Zuidkempense Pijl in 2000 and 2001. Quick-Step Floors will be the last team presented to the fans at the Rondplein in Mol at 11:52 a.m. local time.
Once the peloton rolls out, riders will pass by the home of Boonen's grandfather, Raymond Boonen, who will drop the flag for the official race start after 9.5km of neutral roll out.
At 23.2km the race will pass by Boonen's current residence, his birthplace and also the hometown of his director sportif, Wilfried Peeters, all in the first 100km.
After 150km Boonen and his fellow racers will enter the traditional final circuits of 16.8km each before the finish in Schoten, where Boonen has twice been victorious.
But Quick-Step Floors will likely be working for German Marcel Kittel in this pure sprinter's race. Kittel has four wins on his record.
No matter who wins, the attention will certainly be squarely on Boonen, who has set his retirement date after Paris-Roubaix, where he will attempt to earn the outright record with five.
Quick-Step Floors for Scheldeprijs: Tom Boonen, Marcel Kittel, Tim Declercq, Iljo Keisse, Davide Martinelli, Fabio Sabatini, Zdenek Stybar and Matteo Trentin.