By Brecht Decaluwé
After Gert Steegmans suffered a rough crash involving a tractor on Wednesday in the Dwars door Vlaanderen, the faithful lieutenant of Tom Boonen decided nonetheless to start the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen on Saturday. The strong Belgian told Cyclingnews at the start of the E3 Prijs that he had received a big blow.
"We shall see how it goes today. My thigh is still looking dark blue, and my back hurts a lot as well. This start in Harelbeke isn't really enjoyable for me. Everybody wants to give me a friendly knock on the back to say hello, it's terrible," Steegmans complained. "In the past I could get ready outside the team bus without a problem but that's no longer possible." Clearly the winner of a stage in the Tour de France 2007, and two stages in Paris-Nice this year is longing for the anonymity he enjoyed during previous years.
As the in-form Quick Step racer is unsure about his current abilities, he will quickly find out how good he is in a race situation. "As soon as the first attacks are launched, I'll know how my body reacts. Let's hope it goes well because it would be such a shame to miss out on the true Spring Classics."
Steegmans' body apparently coped well with its injuries; he was in every breakaway attempt and eventually managed a place in the ultimately successful breakaway group. The Belgian probably wanted to give all he had in order to make sure he is ready for Flanders. Director sportif Dirk De Mol was happy to have Steegmans in the breakaway. "He's the best man to have out there. But when he got dropped on the Knokteberg, the race was over for us. The gaps between the several groups were too big to turn anything around in our advantage."