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Team Quick Step will have a surplus of top sprinters in 2011, with Tom Boonen being joined by newcomers Gerald Ciolek and Francesco Chicchi. While there is no doubt that Boonen is the team's number one rider, the presence of the other two will relieve pressure on him, according to new directeur sportif Tom Steels.
The former rider, who retired in 2008 after 15 pro years, worked as a television commentator and rider agent before joining Quick Step for the 2011 season.
"Boonen has chances in the mass sprints,” Steels told sporza.be. "But maybe he will be more likely to do it in a difficult finish or in the sprint after a hard race.”
"We also have Andreas Stauff and the young Frederique Robert, who we will want to see work too. When it comes to sprinting, we still have some quality on the team.”
Overall, he expects good things this year from the team, which features at least 11 new riders. “It may be a good season or a super season. Many factors will play a role: can newcomers like Stauff find their way to the top? Will Ciolek quickly find his place in the team? We have to wait and see. But I think Quick Step will have a strong team."
At the training camp in Calpe, Spain, which runs until December 21, the team has been divided into two groups, those who peak later in the year and those who are to peak in the spring, with the latter group led by Boonen.
The former world champion “makes a fresh impression,” Steels said. “The start of the season for Boonen is very important because he lost so much time last year to his knee injury.”
Boonen's hard knocks last year “will add extra motivation. Boonen is still someone who wants above all to win.”
The 30-year-old had only 44 racing days in 2010. He still brought in four victories before undergoing knee surgery in July. He returned to racing briefly in October.