Belgian road season swings into focus this weekend
After making 15 changes to his roster over the winter, Marc Sergeant is hoping his Omega Pharam Lotto team finds success this weekend as the Belgian road season moves into focus with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
The Belgian team will be lead by Philippe Gilbert in Omloop (Saturday), while new signing Andre Greipel will assume the reins in Kuurne a day later.
"For Belgian cycling, this is the start of the season. We've busy training camps for over a month now, but there is always more excitement as you build up to tomorrow's race," Sergeant told Cyclingnews.
Omega started the season in relatively good form, picking up two wins in last week's Tour of Algarve -- courtesy of Greipel and Gilbert - but Sergeant is well aware that the level of competition will be much higher this weekend than it was in Algarve.
One team Sergeant is wary of is Rabobank. The Dutch squad has been in scintillating form since the turn of the year and has amassed a total of 17 podium places.
"Rabobank has been exceptional so far this season. In previous years, Oscar Freire would pop up with two or three wins early in the season but now everyone on that team seems to be winning. Gesink, Boom, Matthews, Bos, they're all winning."
And while only one of those riders will race this weekend, Sergeant has picked out one as a potential danger man.
"Boom is a very strong rider, and he's starting to feel and ride better on the kind of roads we'll be using in the next couple of days. He's a strong rider, so if you give him any kind of gap he could time trial his way to the finish and we won't see him again."
"But there are maybe 20 riders who could be in the mix over the coming days. Boonen, you can't forget him, and he's very strong and motivated. He'll be there tomorrow."
While Gilbert has become one of the most accomplished Classics riders in recent years, this weekend could act as a catalyst for Greipel, who left HTC at the end of 2010 because he felt stifled in the same team as Mark Cavendish.
With less than a month to go until Milan San Remo, and the Manxman not riding this weekend, Kuurne is the perfect opportunity to send the right message.
"Kuurne is often a sprint so if Andre is in that group, then he has a chance of winning. It's going to be very difficult, the level is very high, like with Rabobank, but I'm confident that Gilbert and Greipel will be very good."
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