Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) drives the pace as the Belgian team split the peloton in strong crosswinds
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Petacchi makes his comeback in the WorldTour stage race
The Omega Pharma-Quick-Step team has named its squad for next week's Eneco Tour, with Sylvain Chavanel the nominated team leader in the absence of Tom Boonen.
Boonen was expected to ride the weeklong stage race in Belgium and the Netherlands but was forced to miss the race due to a saddle sore. It is now unsure when he will return to action.
Chavanel tops the Omega Pharma-Quick-Step roster for the Eneco Tour. The mid-race 13.2km time trial makes and hilly stages in the Ardennes make him an overall contender. However Omega Pharma-Quick-Step played down their overall hopes. Also in the line-up are Alessandro Petacchi, who is making his return to serious racing in the Eneco Tour, former cyclo-cross star Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra and fast finishers Gert Steegmans and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck.
Before the race, Chavanel will also meet with Omega Pharma-Quick-Step team manager Patrick Lefevere to discuss his future with the Belgian team. He has a serious offer from Ag2r-La Mondiale but the Belgian team is keen to keep him for ability in the cobbled Classics, the Tour de France and short stage races.
"As per tradition, the race features a first part -the first 4 stages- that are more suited to sprinters. On the other hand, the weekend will be hard, with a time trial on Friday and the two reigning stages on Saturday and Sunday with the arrival on the Geraardsbergen. Compared to last year, Saturday's stage will be more challenging, so there could be some surprises," directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters said in an announcement from the team.
"For the sprint finishes in the first four days we will be able to count on fast riders like Gert Steegmans, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Alessandro Petacchi."
Petacchi back in action
Petacchi rode a criterium in Kortrijk on Thursday night (finishing second behind Marcel Kittel) and will ride another in Lombardsijde on Sunday before making his full return to racing with Omega Pharma-Quick Step on stage one of the Eneco Tour to Ardooie in Belgium.
"Alessandro is at his first race with our jersey, so he will definitely be very motivated and determined to do well," Peeters said.
"Once we reach the weekend we'll have athletes like Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra and Sylvain Chavanel who are very comfortable on these types of routes that recall the Classics. The formation is rounded out by two solid riders like Kevin De Weert and Stijn Vandenbergh, who we can always count on to be ready in any racing situation."
"The goal is to try and clinch at least one stage and get at least one of our athletes into the top 10 of the general classification."
Omega Pharma-Quick Step team for the Eneco Tour: Sylvain Chavanel, Kevin De Weert, Alessandro Petacchi, Gert Steegmans, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Stijn Vandenbergh.