By Brecht Decaluwé in Kortrijk
After a tremendous performance in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Belgian Quick Step team is ready to conquer Hell next Sunday. Paris-Roubaix has been a race that was dominated by the Belgian team in the past, until more recent editions where CSC took over control of the pavé.
Both Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder explained to the press in the Kennedy hotel in Kortrijk, that they are ready to conquer the cobbles in the North of France. Once again, we can expect Devolder to demolish the opposition simply by leading the peloton. Meanwhile Boonen will be sitting back to exploit his sprinting skills when a group of favourites reaches the final stretches of pavé near Roubaix.
The team's line-up for Roubaix changed a little with Barredo and Steegmans being replaced by Kevin Hulsmans and Wouter Weylandt. Popular Boonen was clearly a relaxed man as he tried to joke around the most casual questions. "How the team is going? I think they are bad," Boonen tried to sound serious. "Everybody is riding at the expected level. Maybe some people were surprised by the performances from Barredo and Wijnants, but not me."
The Quick Step riders did a reconnaissance of the Paris-Roubaix course on Friday. The riders started at the Trouée d'Arenberg and rode until the pavé section number six in Cysoing. Directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters then drove the rest of the course with newbies Maarten Wijnants and Wouter Weylandt.
Boonen produced another one of his jokes when asked about how the cobbles were. "They have been there for about 200 years, and they are still the same as they used to be; they remain cobbles." Boonen laughed. The weather situation will decide on how the cobbles will present themselves to the riders. Peeters explained that, in his opinion, the Madiot pavé section and those from Mons-en-Pevele are the worst to ride over.
The team's leader reminded the press about another factor. "The wind will play an important role. If it's a headwind then the peloton will be riding like brats and we will all wait as long as possible to start the finale. With a tailwind it will be a tougher and faster race, which I prefer as the selection will be easier to make," Boonen explained.
"The favourites? They are the same from last Sunday," 'Tommeke' continued. A lot of riders can be ranked among the favourites as it seems that this year nobody is dominating the peloton. "Not much has changed, but all the good riders are in top form and that's why so many guys can battle for the win," Boonen explained. "During the Ronde van Vlaanderen I noticed that Cancellara is no longer the super strong man from three or four weeks ago."
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