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Tom Boonen (Quick.Step)
Patrick Lefevere, team manager of the winning Quickstep-team, knew that the race would be decided at...
Patrick Lefevere, team manager of the winning Quickstep-team, knew that the race would be decided at the Paterberg. "I sent a message to our man in the car that it would be good if Boonen would attack," said Lefevere post-race. "At that moment, Robbie McEwen was riding in front of the group on the small asphalted part of the road. That was very intelligent because anyone who wanted to attack needed to ride three km/h faster. Ballan proved to be the man with the best legs and guts at that moment.
"He would fit in our team. Already since 2003 he is on my list for the team. But you can't have all the best riders of the world, can you? We've already got Boonen, Bettini, Pozzato and in the past, we had Museeuw, Vandenbroucke and Di Luca. But he is a great rider, there's no doubt about that. His attack on the Poggio in Milano-Sanremo was impressive. Even more impressive was the pace afterwards that didn't allow Igor Astarloa to come back to them.
"Andreas Klier was also good, but he had been riding in front for most of the race. I have the impression that two riders are riding extraordinarily. The rest are riding on their normal level, which is also a high level of course."
On the Paterberg, Boonen was the only Quick.Step rider in the front group. "That's right," said Lefevere. "Though Cretskens was in the attack early on. Van Impe did what he had to do. Bram Tankink needed to give his wheel on a cobbled section. Afterwards, he got behind because of a fall. Still, he came back to the front. For the others, I'll have to discuss their performance with Wilfried Peeters. Also, you've got to take into account that three riders of our team for Sunday are not here. Pozzato, Nuyens and Bettini will join our squad there.
"But every race is different, so I don't have to make the account of the Davitamon-team. Though I prefer being in our camp. Still, we'll see after Liège-Bastogne-Liège how our classics season has been going. Until now, we have won almost everything. If we don't win in Paris-Roubaix, people will be there to complain about our performance."
"This proves that my second place in Het Volk was not just luck," said fourth placed Bert de Waele. "My fitness is even better than four weeks ago. I hope to be on top of my capabilities in the Tour of Flanders. I can get a long way next week. I'm not going to say crazy things because I'm a nervous guy. If I can start relaxed, I have my chances.
"Boonen's attack on the Paterberg slipped out of my attention. When I saw him, I quickly noticed that he's riding on a different level. I saw that because Peter Van Petegem couldn't go with them, because Robbie McEwen got in his way. In the pursuit on the two leaders, it wasn't up to me to lead the way, since I'm a rider of a non-ProTour-team. Sadly, the other didn't do the job either. The sprint for third place was close. I knew that Vierhouten was the man to beat. I came close but still the difference was half a wheel."
Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel) finished fifth, last of the three man chase group. "Against Ballan and Boonen, there was not much we could do," he said. "On the Paterberg, I was too far back. I moved up with Van Petegem, but the bird had already flown. In the chase, there were too many of us. They were racing too much for third place. I don't understand that. Boonen was again really strong, but we'll keep trying."
Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto) was strong, but not strong enough: "On the Paterberg, I was riding in seventh position. Is that too far? The only mistake that I made is that I didn't react immediately to the attack of Ballan and Boonen. I'm happy with my performance but I'm getting angry about some people. Saying that I'm only performing two weeks a season is so wrong. They should see what I'm doing for so many years now."
Gert Steegmans was riding strongly in the past weeks but today he failed to stay with the leaders, surprisingly. "I don't know what happened. I felt good but not super. On the Oude Kwaremont, suddenly I was standing still. We'll have to investigate what happened with me. Hopefully it's not too serious."
Davitamon-Lotto manager Marc Sergeant analysed his team's performance, its best result being Peter Van Petegem's 9th place. "We were lacking a guy like Leon Van Bon to organise a good pursuit," Sergeant told Cyclingnews. "We've got to admit that Boonen is extremely strong. He stipulates how things will unfold. Together with Boonen, the second strongest man in the race joined the escape. All the others were not as strong as those two. Last year, he was impressive, this year he looks even stronger. Even when he's isolated, he doesn't look beatable. He reacts to everything that moves. Probably Peter Van Petegem isn't able to do that anymore.
"We'll see more than a lot from Ballan in the future. He was really strong today."
Sergeant also reacted on the tactics of his team when Boonen punctured before the Paddestraat: "We didn't react because he punctured, but because we were in a bad situation in front. In future races, our tactics will have to be changed. Getting rid of Boonen is the most important factor in that tactic. When you don't get rid of him, probably you'll battle for second place."
Andreas Klier (T-Mobile) was in the early break, then in the chase with Van Petegem, but they had to admit that Ballan and Boonen were the stronger duo: "I tried to win today, but on the Paterberg, another rider made a big error, and because of that I couldn't follow," he said, referring to (but not wishing to name) McEwen's dramatic slowing down while in front with Klier on his wheel.
"If I wasn't in the early break, then I probably would have been in the finale. My fitness is as it should be. During the coming week, I'll try to keep my fitness at this level."