Courtesy of Brecht Decaluwé in Kuurne and Sabine Sunderland
Nick "the sniper" Nuyens (Quick.Step):
" This is beautiful," the very happy winner told Sporza. "This victory just finished off perfect team work. I honestly didn't feel that good today, but the result is good anyway. In the finale, it was a matter of go, go, go - to waste the others. Then we got away with that group. I knew I had to make mush of Steegmans. Even if I couldn't have finished it off it was the right strategy to make the others tired - if they would have taken me back it was up to Boonen to win the sprint. Then we had a situation where I was gone on my own and the team did a super job stopping the others from taking me back. The great team play - that's what is so scary about this team! I didn't believe I'd win until two hundred metres before the line."
Asked what he told Boonen when he made contact with his leading group with 9 kilometres to go, Nuyens replied, "I told him to sit quiet. If he would have stayed away with those four, they would have killed him. I knew that the rest of us would do the work to make the race.
"I was really mad at myself yesterday, to finish 90th was not good for me," Nuyens further explained his deception at Het Volk. "I wasn't super and was sitting too far back on the cobbles. I was spewing and deeply disappointed. It was a strange race; a big gamble in the finale. So this puts it straight. In a few weeks time things will culminate."
Finally, Nuyens said the "revenge" on Davitamon didn't matter much to him. "We don't care about the rivalry between our team and Davitamon; it's not the riders but the press who does that. For us it's important to just race and win."
Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) - third:
"Yesterday was a stupid race really," the World Champion told Sporza. "There never was real racing happening. I was like: 'common guys, what are you doing here?' I was disappointed by the tactics, but that's the other teams' good right - maybe we would have done the same if we had been in their position. Today we took control of the race. I threw a bomb in the ranks. I let the guys come back in the finale, and I told the rest that they could do as they wanted and they panicked a bit. Nick attacked and I blocked counter attacks. Nick has really deserved this win."
Boonen was also positive about the young Belgians' overall performance. "I'm happy to see guys like Gert Steegmans, Van den Broeck, De Vocht, Van Impe, Gilbert, me, etc, up there this weekend. That's really good; it shows the youngsters are stepping up to the front now. It was clear to me that I always raced with very capable guys from the early years."
Finally, Boonen looked ahead. "I trained hard in Monaco before the weekend and did ride a bit on the finale of Milan-San Remo already; I'm going back South now to scout the Cipressa and the Poggio some more and I think I can say I'm going up there pretty fast already."
Niko Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques) - fourth:
"I've only seen one block in this race: Quick.Step," Eeckhout told Sporza. "They really played their numbers right. The sprint for the third place wasn't simple; Boonen flew past me. It's not easy to sprint against him. In the finale, everyone reacted to my attacks. I heard on the radio that they jumped in my wheel right away.
"I wasn't super but I would have liked to sprint for the win. It's positive that I was good in the finale while not being at a 100 percent just yet. It's good to ride well in the opening weekend. The Tour of Flanders is the big goal for me: I want to see how far I can get there."
Gert Steegmans (Davitamon-Lotto) - sixth:
"Everything is going much easier for me than last year," Steegmans told Cyclingnews. "I feel that particularly in the climbing sections. Peter Van Petegem advised me to stop thinking so much. This way, I fight for my place in the bunch. It means that you have to ride like your life depends on it, but I’ll take that for granted. But I already felt that I can compete with the best since the Eneco Tour of Benelux last season. This winter, I’ve been training really hard with Leon Van Bon. Staying healthy combined with a good winter delivers now. Unfortunately, I didn't get a win this weekend, but I hope to win a semi-classic this year like E3-prijs-Harelbeke. But I also want to be there in the big races like the Tour of Flanders."
Marc Sergeant, coach of Davitamon, confirmed Steegmans' high hopes: "He didn’t climb in our hierarchy but I must admit that we have a lot of confidence in this young man. He wasn’t in the breakaway at Nokere. This made us pursue for more than 12 km. Maybe that cost us a third man in the final break. Gert was nailed between three Quick.Step riders, so we accept our defeat. What's more concerning to me is Peter Van Petegem: he didn’t have any power. He's probably getting ill, as a lot of people are these days."
Nico Mattan (Davitamon-Lotto) - 38th:
"I think we should have done better as a team," Mattan told Sporza. "I felt strong on the Kwaremont but in the finale we fell one man short. I tried to make the race explode. It was a test for me and that test came out positive today. I was strong enough but it wasn't up to me to keep going again and again with Boonen. I came back with Hoste. Steegmans rode really well, he was the man in form on our team; he rode here to win but Quick.Step had a man more than us in the finale. There were only two of us left; I couldn't do anything anymore at that stage, my barrel was empty. I really think that we should have had another rider there in the last kilometres. But there's other races to come."
Nico Mattan looked to be in the good escape but it proved to be an escape to soon, as he told Cyclingnews: "Without my efforts on the Oude Kwaremont, I think I could have fought for victory today. On that hill, I gave everything to make the race as hard as possible. But, with these legs a good prologue in Paris-Nice should be possible. I'm not saying that I’m going to win - Top 3 is my pick."
Serge Baguet (Quick.Step) - 48th:
"I felt very strong on those hills, but that’s also my problem in this race," Baguet told Cyclingnews after the race. "Those hills are too far away from the finish, so everything came back together. At that moment it was raining attacks. I tried to be there in the escape but suddenly we had our men up front so the race was over for me. It gives me a lot of confidence for my races. I want to stay healthy and be there in the Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège."