Belgium enters Sunday's World Championships with the options and a parcours suited to their elite men's characteristics. It was no wonder they appeared so relaxed and confident at their pre-race press conference in downtown Richmond on Thursday.
Boonen is the most likely rider to sit in the bunch and wait for a sprint, while Gilbert and Van Avermaet will be able to rider their own races.
"Every time that you come to the World Championships you come with the same ambition. You're trying to get a win," Boonen told Cyclingnews after the main press conference concluded.
Boonen won the Worlds in Madrid ten years ago and although he is moving into the twilight of his career he remains a colossus in the sport. The slightly uphill sprint suits him and with a cadre of Etixx Quickstep riders in the national team, they look set-up to support him.
Van Avermaet and Gilbert will be given freedom and support to ride their races too and either rider could factor if a select group goes clear in the final two laps. To put it simply, Belgium are spoilt for choice when it comes to leadership options and if they click, as Boonen expects them too, they could run away with the title.
"This year we find the parcours has been especially designed for the Belgians it seems," he beamed.
"It seems like it's going to be a very fast race but what would [winning] it mean? It would mean the same as the first win, an amazing feeling.
"I see four or five guys that are able to win but that's not the objective from the start. There are even guys like Tiesj Benoot who can pretty much win the race and he's 21.
"It’s not easy to come here and say that we're going to start with one leader. That's not possible but the good thing is that we have guys who are well spread out tactically wise, so we have guys who can go in the break with the strong guys and I can wait a little bit with the faster guys who will try to survive for the sprint. The last few years show that it works out and that we have a cocktail of good riders."
Boonen added that there was little to read into the fact that three of his trade teammates had been picked for the team – a possible hint that the team were more primed to support him than van Avermaet or Gilbert.
"I think the coach made the choices by looking at the Classic parcours and he took some of the riders from the best Classics team in the world and that's the only thing that I see. These guys are all here and willing to do a good job for everyone. In the end it's always the same objective: trying to be in the front of the race with the last one or two laps. It's the same for everyone."
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