Quick Step's Boonen claims he's at 85%
Racers will dispute two grueling Belgian semi-classics this weekend: Omloop Het Volk on Saturday and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday. And with the opening of the Belgian race season, the traditional public denials of top form have once again begun. Tom Boonen held a press conference in the advance of the races saying that he was "only at 85%" of his abilities, but will nonetheless lead his Belgian Quick Step team. According to sporza.be Boonen said he "had a cold last weekend", and that he took an extra rest day in order to recover for the races.
After dominating the Tour of Qatar, Boonen struggled to regain his speed at the Ruta del Sol, winning one stage, but he was philosophical about the early season races, saying "Those who are already super, by the end of March, beginning of April, will come short." With his goals firmly planted in mid-April, Boonen assured that his team will have several cards to play, and that his teammates will be ready to carry on if he cannot go for the win. Former Davitamon-Lotto lead-out man Gert Steegmans, and 2002 Het Volk winner Peter Van Petegem will be on tap to fill in for Boonen on the podium if need be.
Quick Step for Het Volk: Tom Boonen, Wilfried Cretskens, Steven De Jongh, Gert Steegmans, Sebastien Rosseler, Kevin Van Impe, Peter Van Petegem, and Wouter Weylandt.
Hammond ready for the weekend
Roger Hammond (T-Mobile) is among the list of riders preparing to make his mark at the first real test of form for the upcoming Spring Classics. Looking forward to this weekend, Hammond said, "The forthcoming weekend of racing is going to be tough but I'm looking forward to pushing myself, getting stuck in and making my mark as a member of the T-Mobile Team. I want to make sure I set a high standard for the rest of the classics season and both of the forthcoming races are a great place to do that."
T-Mobile for Het Volk: Eric Baumann, Lorenzo Bernucci, Markus Burghardt, Bernhard Eisel, Bert Grabsch, Roger Hammond, Andreas Klier, Servais Knaven
T-Mobile for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Eric Baumann, Lorenzo Bernucci, Markus Burghardt, Bert Grabsch, Roger Hammond, Greg Henderson, Andreas Klier, Frantisek Rabon
Discovery misses Hincapie
Following the departure of Classics men Leif Hoste and Roger Hammond from their roster, the Discovery Channel team will now have to count on Belgian Stijn Devolder for the spring races now that George Hincapie is out with a broken wrist. Assistant director sportif Dirk Demol said on Sporza radio that Russian Vladimir Gusev is also out of the weekend's races, having a suspected pinched nerve as a result of a crash he sustained in the Volta ao Algarve. "He has no feeling in both feet", said Demol. With Hincapie and Gusev out, and other classics riders Benjamin Noval and Uros Murn also on the injured list, Demol said, "Therefore Stijn Devolder is head man."
To read Cyclingnews' complete preview for Het Volk, click here.