Quick Step's star sprinter Tom Boonen will launch the second half of his season at the Amgen Tour of California with an eye on netting stage wins and gearing up for July's Tour de France.
The Belgian champion already has one career win in California, he claimed a rainy stage in Sacramento in 2008, but last year was beaten twice by HTC-Columbia ace Mark Cavendish.
This year, the race falls three months later and rather than provide an early-season tune-up for the Classics, it now serves as preparation for the Tour de France.
Quick Step director Wilfried Peeters outlined the squad's ambitions for the American race. "Our goal is to try to win a stage and to be ready to take advantage of every chance the race will give us."
Boonen will use the race as a stepping stone toward July, and will follow up his appearance in California with starts in the Tour de Suisse (June 12-20, 2010), and the Halle-Ingooigem on June 23rd before going on to preview the route of the third stage of the Tour de France.
Even though the route duplicates portions of the Paris-Roubaix parcours, Boonen will not rely only on his expertise in the race he's won three times. "It's an important stage in the Tour," said Boonen. "A reconnaissance on those roads is always important to memorise the route."
Boonen will defend his national title on June 27 as his last race before the Tour de France.
Quick Step for the Amgen Tour of California: Carlos Barredo, Tom Boonen, Kurt Hovelijnck, Kevin Hulsmans, Nikolas Maes, Andreas Stauff, Jurgen Van De Walle, Maarten Wynants