Former Silence-Lotto team director Jose De Cauwer has made it clear he thinks the Belgian team has no chance of winning this weekend's Ronde van Vlaanderen.
"You can use these last days [to prepare] a bit, but not enough to win," De Cauwer told Sporza. The former Raleigh-Ti and Peugeot professional is also a commentator on the TV network of the same name.
The Belgian press is beginning to apply pressure to Marc Coucke's outfit; success hasn't flowed as freely as in years past and there's the hope this will change soon. De Cauwer's comments aren't cause for optimism, however.
"If you look at the two Belgian teams, Quick Step has recorded wins and Silence-Lotto has problems," he continued. "Hopefully the weather is good and Silence finds some better legs, so there is still some competition for Quick Step."
Despite having riders such as Greg Van Avermaet, Philippe Gilbert and Leif Hoste as the 'go to' men at this time of year, De Cauwer believes "Silence is lost". "Nobody is sick, no one is over trained," he said. "They are looking for something that is not there or something they still haven't found."
De Cauwer contrasted cycling with football to illustrate the point that riders such as Van Avermaet must feel that their chances of winning are good according to their legs. "Cycling is not football, where a fortuitous bounce of the ball can decide the outcome," he said.
Philippe Gilbert emphasised this point when he told Sporza that he knows he can't win De Ronde. "I'm certainly not a favourite," said Gilbert. "At this moment there are five or six really top riders. The Quick Step guys are certainly amongst those, and there are still about 50 riders in the same shape as me.
"I can only hope for a good outcome, but I certainly can't win on Sunday."
Quick Step strongest, but not certainties
De Cauwer also said that despite having the strongest team in the event, Patrick Lefevere's squad may not have an easy time on Sunday. He sees it as a potential disadvantage to have Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel, Kevin Van Impe and Stijn Devolder in the same squad.
"There will be no [Fabian] Cancellara, no [Alessandro] Ballan, no [Stuart] O'Grady...riders his men can 'throw a bomb' at," he said. "Maybe on Sunday it will be everyone in the race trying to paralyse the Quick Step threat."
De Cauwer added that observers and fans should assume that someone from Quick Step will win, but he wasn't prepared to name exactly who that would be.
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