Tom Boonen (Quick Step) named Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) as the man to beat in this weekend's Tour of Flanders. The Belgian has won the race twice (2005, 2006) and again heads into the event with a nation's expectations riding on his shoulders.
After Cancellara beat Boonen in last week's E3 Prijs however, the Quick Step leader sees Cancellara as his biggest challenger.
"I am ok with being considered a favourite even though I know that in Harelbeke I didn't really make the big difference. I do think Cancellara is definitely as good as me," Boonen told the media at a press conference.
Boonen and his teammates spent today riding reconnaissance on the route ahead of the race. The race has changed course slightly this year with organisers aiming to create a more aggressive race. Boonen believes that despite the reshuffle, the same climbs will determine the winner.
"The finale will start where it always starts: Kwaremont, Patersberg, Koppenberg. That's then immediately followed by Taaienberg, Eikenberg. Before you had a little stretch to recover in the lead up to the Berendries, a lot of groups came back before that, but [the course] has been altered by all the extra stones they have put in, so from there on you can consider the finale to start."
"Matti Breschel showed some good things but this is a long Classic. There are no secrets at this stage. The top riders will be top, but it's not like anyone is going to take the step in the following days from semi-favourite to favourite."
"Stijn Devolder has proven that he can prepare really well for this race. He's so relaxed and he has a powerful tool in being able to make himself unnoticed, I put him next to Philippe Gilbert for the weekend. I think he's waiting for Sunday to show his strength."
"But we'll have to wait and see how it goes. Last Saturday, I felt really good and I hope to feel even better next Sunday. I hope to stay healthy and hope to hold on to my good form until after Paris-Roubaix."
Boonen in Flanders
Since 2002 Tom Boonen has been an ever-present fixture in the race. He’s consistent too. While claiming the title on two occasions, he’s also made the top twenty-five each year.