Omega Pharma-QuickStep directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters believes that the eight riders he’s chosen for this weekend’s Tour of Flanders has got the right combination of experience and talent to take victory.
"Absolutely one of those guys can win," he told Cyclingnews. "I think it’s more important that we have a strong team. We have a lot of good riders and sometimes the selection is difficult. I think when we lose next Sunday and there is someone stronger, then OK. When you lose Sunday and you miss things, then I’m not happy."
Omega Pharma-QuickStep waited until the pre-race press conference on Friday to announce their team for the year’s second Monument. The importance of this weekend is almost second to none for the team and for them the selection forced them to make some tough choices.
Tom Boonen will lead the team into battle on Sunday, but he will be flanked by a number of riders who have the potential to take the victory themselves. The three-time Ronde van Vlaanderen winner hasn’t looked at the top of his game recently. Peeters admits that, while he’s moving in the right direction, the Belgian won’t be the main favourite, despite his record at the race.
"He’s changed a lot in one week. For me, last week Cancellara was stronger in Harelbeke and maybe he is one level up and also Sagan. He is coming on the second line and maybe not a favourite," says Peeters. "I think Cancellara is number one, then Sagan and Tom."
Niki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar will also take up leadership roles at the weekend, giving the team an enviable number of options when it comes to tactics. Terpstra has been flying over the last two weeks with a victory and a podium placing. He was tipped to take the general classification at the Three Days of de Panne, but lost out in the time trial after his pedal broke.
The Dutch rider looks to be in better form than his more illustrious teammate, but Peeters still thinks that Boonen has the edge over the 29-year-old. "OK, he has made the best results over the last two weeks, but the Tour of Flanders is 50km more," he says. "On Sunday you need experience. You need to save your energy and go at the right moment and that level, Tom is maybe a little bit better. But Niki will also be in the final.
"Tom is one of the guys with the most experience. Niki is in very good condition and Zdenek is one of the youngest guys. It is only his second Tour of Flanders, he needs some more experience. But he’s very strong in the small climbs and you never know with this guy."
Guillaume van Keirsbulck also earned his call-up to the team, for only his second go at the race. Van Keirsbulck took part in the 2011 edition in his first year as a professional and finished 12 minutes behind the day’s winner Nick Nuyens. Peeters says that the selection for Flanders was made a little while ago, but Van Keirsbulck was none the wiser when he stepped into the winner’s press conference at the Three Days of de Panne. The man who finished third at that race, Gert Steegmans, will not take the start, after he missed the cut.
Also lining up in Bruges will be Iljo Keisse, Stijn Vandenbergh, Nikolas Maes and Matteo Trentin.