Patrick Levefere has hinted for the first time that Omega Pharma - QuickStep will start the Tour of Flanders with three leaders. Tom Boonen, the team's most successful rider with three Ronde titles to his name, has been suffering with injury and illness all year, and crashed out of Gent-Wevelgem last weekend.
He started the Three Days of De Panne on Tuesday in a search for extra racing miles but the 2012 Flanders winner looks short of form compared to his two predicted rivals Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara.
Sagan won Gent-Wevelgem while Cancellara romped to the win in E3 Harelbeke two days before.
With Boonen struggling to get on terms and Sagan almost toying with the opposition in De Panne, Lefevere has admitted that his team may change tactics in order to compensate.
"Sagan is so strong it's like he's playing little jokes with the others," Lefevere told Cyclingnews after stage 1 of De Panne.
"He is using the right tactics and he put the sprinters' team in a lot of pain."
"I was talking with Boonen on the bus. He still has a little bit of pain in his knee but if he can go into Wednesday and race the 220 kilometres then we can start to think about how we can beat Sagan on Sunday."
Even if Boonen completes De Panne it may not be enough to see him on level terms and Lefevere added that with Sylvain Chavanel and Niki Terpstra both on song in recent weeks, the team may alter their approach.
"In the past it was an easy decision because it was Tom and then the others. He was pulling today in the finale and that's the real Tom Boonen and he has good legs. But maybe for Flanders it's okay if Boonen, Chavanel and Terptra have the shape that we had today and then we can play on different cards. Of course it depends how Cancellara and Sagan are racing."
"You can't be frustrated. I've seen that his team is getting better but a team is only as good as their leader. We have a strong team but it's difficult to organise a race if Sagan attacks."
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.