Until recently, Etixx-QuickStep could rely on a trump card at the Tour of Flanders. Tom Boonen was the benchmark for all others at the Ronde: stronger than anybody who was faster than him, and faster than anybody who was stronger than him.
After an arduous recovery from the head injury he sustained at October’s Abu Dhabi Tour, Boonen arrives at the first Sunday of April in the unfamiliar role of outsider. While his Etixx-QuickStep team remains a redoubtable force, their collective power is diminished by the lack of a bankable leader like the Boonen of old.
“Cancellara and Sagan are above the others and it’s up to them to take responsibility,” he said. “If they don’t, they won’t win.”