Nuyens, the new challenger

2005 Omloop Het Volk and 2006 Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner Nick Nuyens has stepped out of the...

2005 Omloop Het Volk and 2006 Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner Nick Nuyens has stepped out of the shadow of Tom Boonen and his former team Quick-Step this season and opted for a new squad, Cofidis. This will make the battle between him and fellow Belgian Boonen particularly interesting this weekend, especially since it was Boonen himself who protected Nuyens' breakaway last year, paving the way for his teammates' victory.

At Cofidis, Nuyens naturally has the role of leader for the Northern Spring races, and he feels confident in his abilities. "People tend to still doubt me, but I know better," he told Sporza at a press conference in Gent. "My medical tests have been the best in years. Winning the Etoile de Bessèges made me accept my leadership role faster. As of Saturday, I'll show that I'm right up there. My team and teammates have confidence in me, and I'm not going to deceive them."

The battle will thus be on in Flanders, particularly against his former team Qick-Step. "On Saturday [Het Volk], Quick-Step will be the team to beat, but I surely won't wait until they take the initiatives," Nuyens added. "I'll ride my own race. Boonen said that Cofidis was a bit weak - that motivated my teammates even more. All they want now is to prove him wrong."

Cofidis' Spring Classics contingent (Nuyens, Lequatre, Farrar, Minard, De Weert, Elijzen, Hejboer and Scheirlinckx) has reconnoitred the course of Het Volk on Wednesday despite the bad weather conditions. "They rode 150 kilometres under the rain and the wind," said directeur sportif Alain Deloeil. "If the weather remains the same, it'll be a difficult race."

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