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Etixx-QuickStep counting on strength in numbers at Tour of Flanders

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Etixx-Quickstep pre-ride the Tour of Flanders route

Etixx-Quickstep pre-ride the Tour of Flanders route
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tour of Flanders 2016 race preview

Tour of Flanders 2016 race preview
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Etixx-Quickstep pre-ride the Tour of Flanders route

Etixx-Quickstep pre-ride the Tour of Flanders route
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tom Boonen in action at the Tour of Flanders

Tom Boonen in action at the Tour of Flanders
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra on the cobbles

Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra on the cobbles
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tom Boonen with Etixx-Quick Step teammate Zdeněk Štybar

Tom Boonen with Etixx-Quick Step teammate Zdeněk Štybar
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

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.”