By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar
Wilfried Peeters confirmed the Quick Step team of Tom Boonen is motivated and strong for the start of the Tour of Qatar Sunday in Doha. The Belgian Directeur Sportif will guide the team of eight riders, including new lead-out man Marco Velo, over the six-day stage race that opens with a team time trial.
"The last two years, we won the team time trial. We have a lot of motivation for it and our team is even stronger this year," said Peeters to Cyclingnews.
The race opens with a six-kilometre team time trial as it has in the last two editions. Quick Step took advantage of the opening stage with its fast lead-out train in the last two years to take the leader's jersey.
The team has the added experience of Italian Marco Velo for 2009. He joins the team after three years at Team Milram. Peeters will use him and then Wouter Weylandt and Steven De Jongh, respectively, to lead out Boonen.
"It is important to guide the team; Quick Step took me on to give direction to the train," said Velo. "I gained a lot of experience, first with Alessandro Petacchi and then with Erik Zabel. I will transfer that experience to this team for Tom."
After the opening day's team time trial, there are five flat stages that will suit the sprinters. The Quick Step team will have a hard fight as the race has one of the strongest lists of sprinters in recent years.
"If there is one faster in the sprints, like Mark Cavendish, it is okay because it gives motivation for the next two months ahead," said Peeters.
The Quick Step team trained in Qatar in the last two days leading up to the race. Friday it rode for four and a half hours and Saturday it rode for two hours.
Peeters, a professional cyclist from 1986 to 2001, joined the team on its rides. He explained the relaxed atmosphere in Qatar provides for the only chance throughout the season to join his charges in training.