New signing Philippe Gilbert could link up with Tom Boonen for the Tour of Flanders, says Etixx Quickstep directeur sportif, Wilfried Peeters. The Belgian team signed Gilbert on a one-year contract for 2017, and with Boonen set to race his final season in the pro-ranks, the veteran pair will race on the same trade team for the first time.
"We've spoken with Tom about the programme for next year and things look good but we still need to make the final decisions at the next training camp," Peeters told Cyclingnews.
"At the moment Tom is on track. He's doing some mountain biking and some cyclo-cross to keep fit over the winter and we're just treating it like any other off-season. We don't yet know about his first race. It could be Qatar but again we don’t know the final plans until we have our camp in December."
Although Boonen and Gilbert have a combined age of 70 they have amassed two world road racing titles and ten Monuments between them. Along with riders such as Niki Terpstra they will provide formidable firepower in next year's Classics campaign. For now though, Peeters believes that the team must plan thoroughly and keep their focus.
"With Gilbert and Tom they know each other well and that means they can help each other win. For a race like Flanders we always have a plan and Gilbert is, like Tom, also one of the guys who can win a race like that. It's possible that they race together there but again nothing is confirmed yet, we still need to make things certain at our camp.
"We don't know yet Philippe's programme. It's an option that he does some races like Flanders. We will have a meeting with him soon and then plan for the season."
Much of next spring will been dominated by Boonen's final outings in the classics. He is set to retire after Paris-Roubaix and Peeters is keen for both his rider and the team to treat the circumstances as they would any other season.
"You can't think too much about Tom stopping. What Tom needs to do is have a good winter and keep his focus, which I'm sure he will. When it comes to racing he can't think about the end, he and the rest of the team just needs to concentrate on the next race coming up.
"When I retired my last race was Paris-Tours and we won that race with Richard Virenque. I made the decision to stop during the season, so it's not quite the same scenario for Tom because at the start of that year I didn't know if I would continue or not but I had a good final race in Roubaix and during Suisse I decided to stop. I kept me race head on for the rest of the year though."
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