Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert will lead the Quick-Step Floors team at Sunday’s Tour of Flanders as they try to use their strength in depth to win the cobbled Classic and defeat huge rivals Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) and Greg van Avermaet (BMC).
The Tour of Flanders will be an emotional but pressure-packed day for the team as they try to win the most important race on Flemish roads as Tom Boonen rides the Belgian monument for the last time in his long and prestigious career.
In the past 15 years Patrick Lefevere’s teams have won the Tour of Flanders five times and taken four other podium places.
This year’s edition of the ‘Ronde’ van Vlaanderen will be Tom Boonen’s 15th and final outing at the race. His career will forever be linked to his first Monument win back in 2005, when he took his rivals by surprise and rode alone to the finish. Boonen has won the Tour of Flanders three times, adding other successes in 2006 and 2012. Boonen is due to retire after Paris-Roubaix, which he has won four times.
Boonen’s palmares earns him leadership status alongside Gilbert even if he has yet to show some great form. However, he and Gilbert make an interesting combination.
Iljo Keisse, Dwars door Vlaanderen victor Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin and Julien Vermote will provide the experience and firepower to support the two and perhaps offer some kind of alternative if crashes and attacks force their hand.
Despite not riding Ronde van Vlaanderen since 2012, Gilbert is no stranger to the roads and cobbles of the Tour of Flanders. He is a two-time podium finisher in 2009 and 2010, and the 34-year-old Belgian national champion showed his form with second place at Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke before winning the opening stage at Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde on the Flemish climbs before securing overall victory.
“We are heading to the race with a strong team. The guys proved over the past weeks that they are ready for this challenge,” directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters said when Quick-Step Floors confirmed their starting eight that will line up in Antwerp for the start of the Tour of Flanders.
“It’s no secret how important Flanders is to our team, but we are also aware we will face some stiff competition. Sagan and Van Avermaet are the two favourites, but we will try to ride an aggressive race and play a role in the finale.
“The most important thing will be to stay focused, don’t make any mistakes, give our best and don’t have any regrets at the end of the day.”
Quick-Step Floors roster for Tour of Flanders: Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin, Julien Vermote