The Belgian Quick Step squad has re-focused its Tour de France goals after giving up on the idea that the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) would reverse its decision to keep green jersey candidate Tom Boonen from the start line in Brest.
Boonen's positive for cocaine might not have earned him an official suspension, but his team announced Thursday that it had come to a decision to accept the ASO's request that 'Tornado Tom' stay home this July.
Boonen received the support of his team and its sponsors, who desperately wanted to see last year's points classification winner repeat that victory. But finally, team manager Patrick Lefevere had to accept that this would not happen. "Although we continue to consider what happened to Tom as an extra-sports episode," Lefevere explained, "we also respect the position expressed by the ASO during the meeting held last week in Paris.
"After talking at length with the rider we believe that this is the best solution for Tom and the team. Tom will try to compete for the green jersey next year."
Boonen expressed his disappointment, but vowed to come back fighting at the Tour in 2009. "I know how much this race means to my team, my sponsors and all my fans. Next year, I'm going to come back even more motivated to try again for the green jersey," he said in a statement. "From now on I'm going to give my best in every race I participate, starting with the National Championship on Sunday. The season is not over yet by any means and fortunately I still have a lot of challenges ahead, from la Vuelta in Spain to the World Championship in Varese which takes place on a parcours I really like."
While Boonen contests the Tour of Austria and Tour de Wallonie, Wilfried Peeters and Dirk Demol will be leading a strong squad in France. With Gert Steegmans for the sprints and Stijn Devolder for the overall classification, the team has a good chance for stage victories.
Quick Step for the Tour: Carlos Barredo, Matteo Carrara, Stijn Devolder, Steven De Jongh, Sébastien Rosseler, Gert Steegmans, Matteo Tosatto, Kevin Van Impe and Jurgen Van de Walle.