After an off-season interrupted by intestinal problems and an infected elbow, Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Tom Boonen is unsure of his form for the two opening races in Belgium, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
Boonen was confirmed for Saturday's Omloop, but said he doesn't feel as confident as he did last year, when he came a close second to his young compatriot Sep Vanmarcke in a three-man sprint.
"It is what it is for the moment," Boonen said. "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."
While the team's directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters named Sylvain Chavanel and Niki Terpstra as potential alternate leaders for Saturday's race, Boonen had another name to add.
"I think Stybar was going really good in Oman. For sure Niki Terpstra and Chavanel will be able to play a role as the captain in the final of Omloop if I will not be there. We have a few guys that will normally be in the final and we'll try to put one of them in front. I will do my best to be there again as last year or to play a role for my teammates if the feeling isn't the same as last year."
"The wind is probably the most important factor of the day on Saturday." Boonen said. "If it is the same as it was today It's going to really destroy the race. it is going to be a very hard race."
Peeters said that Boonen will decide after Saturday's race if he will start in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne the next day. The team will have a different strategy for the flatter event.
"For sure we will start with the aim to bring Cavendish to the final sprint," Peeters said. "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."
In other Quick Step news, Sunday will see the return of Gert Steegmans, who missed out on the Volta ao Algarve after breaking his right thumb in training.
Omega Pharma - Quick Step for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel, Iljo Keisse, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Stijn Vandenbergh.
Omega Pharma - Quick Step for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: Mark Cavendish, Sylvain Chavanel, Nikolas Maes, Gert Steegmans, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh, Martin Velits.