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National theme bike for Tour's lone Japanese rider
Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma - QuickStep)
Boonen is best Omega Pharma Quick Step's best finisher in third
Something went wrong in the Omega Pharma Quick Step team camp on Sunday. Gert Steegmans featured in the breakaway which was about to sprint for the victory at the Belgian championships in Wielsbeke, with a finish right next to the big Unilin factory, the company behind Quick-Step. But then with 6km to go, the team's riders started to lead the peloton to set up a bunch sprint for their fast man Tom Boonen. With 400m to go, the break was caught and Boonen finished third behind winner Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Belisol).
Steegmans was certain of the win, confident he would beat his seven breakaway companions in the sprint, but with the finish line in sight his teammates stormed passed him. Afterward, the 33-year-old Steegmans was extremely disappointed.
"Today I feel like they flicked me," Steegmans told Sporza after freshening up in the team bus. "They said that I could go in the attack if I was confident about the win. I felt confident, but then my team closed the gap. For a third place. Bravo," a cynical Steegmans said. "Sorry, I can't help it. It makes me furious."
One month ago at the Baloise Tour of Belgium, Steegmans received a blow, too, when he was heading for the bunch sprint win on the short De Wandelaar-climb in the stage to Knokke-Heist. Steegmans had a nice gap, but Boonen powered in front of the peloton and managed to win ahead of Steegmans and Theo Bos. Afterward, Boonen claimed that he thought more riders would be able to pass Steegmans.
Back in 2007 and 2008, Steegmans won two stages in the Tour de France, including a brilliant sprint victory on the Champs Elysees. More recently, Steegmans is struggling. He won his last race in 2011. Steggel wasn't selected for his beloved Spring Classics and after the disastrous Belgian championships, he's drawing the conclusion that his team has lost their confidence in him.
"I wasn't allowed to do ride the Classics, not ride this and that. If one rode up front, then we had to play tactics and be certain of the win. Well, I was certain. Everything turned out perfectly and then the last lap you're there and I feel flicked. I'm really mad about it. Everybody saw what happened. This is really strong. Apparently they don't like me. I only rode for the team with our tactics."