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Tom Boonen followed by Geraint Thomas
Belgian team now looks ahead to Paris-Roubaix
After some impressive performances in Sunday's Tour of Flanders - which nevertheless left them without the great victory - Belgian team Quick Step is licking its wounds and looking forward to next weekend's Paris-Roubaix. With its two leaders finishing in the top five, Patrick Lefevere's squad has all the reasons to be proud even if the result shows that more could have been possible.
Second-placed Chavanel was perhaps the strongest rider in the 2011 Ronde, but finally missed out on the victory by getting fenced in during the three-man sprint. On the attack since the Oude Kwaremont early in the race, he was later joined by über-favourite Fabian Cancellara and was able to hold onto his wheel until the end, even outsprinting him for second.
Having his Belgian team leader Tom Boonen in a chase group behind, Chavanel naturally did not take any turns and recovered a bit for the finale - in vain. "In the sprint [against Cancellara and the later winner Nick Nuyens - ed.], he had to play poker. Maybe he should have started his sprint from further back, but that's always easy to say afterwards," Peeters added.
As for the Belgian team's supreme leader Boonen, he followed the chasers' moves and could have sprinted for victory if Cancellara hadn't made his final attack - but he admitted himself he did not have the legs to follow 'Spartacus' on Sunday.
"I was just a bit too short to be in the mix in the sprint," said Boonen, who ended up fourth. "I'll be stronger next week.
"When Fabian got away on the Leberg, I didn't have the legs to follow him, and it was still early in the race," he told Sportwereld. "I think that Chavanel was the strongest man in the race."
But the Frenchman remained true to team's orders in the hope of seeing Boonen take a sprint victory. "When Cancellara joined me, I found it a pity that I couldn't work with him," Chavanel told Belgian news agency Belga. "But I defended the team's tactics as Tom was behind and he could perhaps take the victory in the sprint."
In the end, the squad lost out, but the performances of its leaders are promising for next weekend's Hell of the North, Paris-Roubaix. "For Boonen, the Tour of Flanders maybe came a bit too early," Peeters commented further.
"In Gent-Wevelgem Tom wasn't on top yet, even though he won. In the Ronde he wasn't great and he got fourth. Let's hope that Cancellara gets a bit weaker and Tom a bit better, then we are in for a beautiful fight next Sunday."