By Brecht Decaluwé
Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder had a good week of training in the Tour of Belgium this week. Boonen won the last stage in the bunch sprint, while overall winner Devolder proved to be the strongest in the peloton both uphill and against the clock. Quick Step now has riders for both the green and yellow jersey in its ranks, although Devolder isn't expected to win the Tour de France... right away.
After winning the Tour of Belgium, Devolder radiated confidence as he had shown a series of impressive performances this week. Combined with a good training week in the Alps last month and the Belgian media and public found the man to carry the hope for a good performance in the overall classification at the Tour de France in July.
The Belgian champion, however, tried to remain cool and played down the expectations a little. "My top form hasn't been reached yet, so I certainly need the Tour de Suisse to be at my absolute top in July. I'll try to take it easy over there, but I have good legs and if I'm up with the best uphill then I will not allow anybody to ride away. Still I will try not to force anything because the only thing that matters is the Tour," Devolder confirmed that he has high hopes for a good performance in France.
Team-mate Tom Boonen won the last stage in a bunch sprint and that in his first week of competition right after his post Spring Classics break. "I had done my part of the work this week and felt tired in a good way. I had been riding with my nose in the wind quite a bit and winning a power sprint after that is good for the moral," the strong Belgian one-day specialist said to Sporza after his victory in Putte.
When asked if there wouldn't be a conflict of interests in the team with both a sprinter and a rider for the overall classification lining up at the start of the Tour de France, Boonen tried to explain why that wasn't the case. "It's a luxury, and we will not make problems about that. Stijn is strong uphill, but he only needs to follow the best riders at that stage," Boonen hinted out that Devolder didn't need too many team-mates in the mountains.
"The work that is done for me is good for Stijn as well. If there's a train then he can sit behind me to stay in a good position." Devolder carries the hope of many Belgians for a strong performance in the Tour de France, but Boonen didn't want to add more expectations than needed. "We should wait after Switzerland. He has trained very hard, but Switzerland will teach us more. We shouldn't expect that Stijn will win the Tour... at least not this year," Boonen concluded.