Etixx-QuickStep have announced their official rosters for this weekend’s Classics kick-off at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, with Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra sharing the leadership load at Omloop on Saturday, and Mark Cavendish joining the effort the next day for Kuurne.
Boonen will be looking for his first-ever win win at Omloop, while Niki Terpstra recently showed fine form in the Middle East.
The 200.2km Omloop Het Nieuwsblad features 11 hellingen, including many of the climbs also featured, or formerly featured, in the Tour of Flanders. There are also 10 cobbled sections.
"The parcours hasn't changed much, so the final is the same," Sport Director Wilfried Peeters said. "For all the riders it's the first test to see where they are on this kind of parcours before the big Classics. The masks will fall off."
Peeters said QuickStep will bring a strong roster to the race with riders in good condition that can be a part of the action and play a part in the final.
"So we are pretty confident in our abilities to be a protagonist," Peeters said. "The last time we won this race was 10 years ago with Nick Nuyens, but the finish was still in Lokeren. Tom Boonen was second that day. Now we hope after 10 years that we can do a good race and try to get a win.??"
The following day at Kuurne-Brussell-Kuurne, QuickStep will line up with the past two winners of the race in Boonen, who won last year, and Cavendish, who won in 2012. [The race was cancelled because of snow in 2103].
Boonen is a three-time winner of the race, which usually favors a sprint finale because the last climb comes 53km from the finish. However, QuickStep blew the race apart last year on the penultimate climb, where a 10-rider breakaway formed and made it all the way to the finish.
"As usual Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne will be an open race with a lot of attacks," Peeters said. "We have riders for any solution, whether out of a breakaway or a group arrival. If there is a bunch sprint, Mark Cavendish will be there. He raced in 2012 for the first time and he won, so his success rate is high. We will try to do our best for a good result on Sunday as well."
Etixx-QuickStep for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (1.HC):
Tom Boonen, Iljo Keisse, Nikolas Maes, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Stijn Vandenbergh.
Etixx-QuickStep for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (1.1):
Tom Boonen, Mark Cavendish, Yves Lampaert, Nikolas Maes, Zdenek Stybar, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Lukasz Wisniowski.