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A pic from last year: Boonen celebrates his second win - will he be able to make it three?

A pic from last year: Boonen celebrates his second win - will he be able to make it three? (Image credit: Luc Claessen)

On Thursday, QuickStep-Innergetic held a press conference in De Panne to announce the team line-up for the Ronde van Vlaanderen that takes place on Sunday. Tom Boonen, the obvious leader after two consecutive victories of the race, will be joined by World champion Paolo Bettini, Steven De Jongh, Kevin Hulsmans, Sebastien Rosseler, Gert Steegmans, Kevin Van Impe and Peter Van Petegem to try and accomplish a historic triplé.

Boonen, who said that he had excellent form, still knew that this will not be easy. "Over these last few days I've realised that I really could do something unique - winning Flanders for the third time in a row, but I'll also need a bit of luck on my side to do this," he said. "It won't be an easy feat. I don't like predicting results but I will say that this year team strategy will be fundamental. There are a lot of good teams taking part and it will be important to have teammates close-by in the finale."

Some have said that Paolo Bettini could also play his own cards in the race, but Boonen wasn't worried. "I'm sure Peter Van Petegem and Paolo Bettini will be alongside me. We have a very strong team. The changes to the parcours this year could change the race during the finale, as well as the weather conditions. The weather forecast is sun and hardly any wind - it is hard to say whether this is a positive or a negative thing. More often with the weather that has been forecast the race becomes very quick and difficult to interpret and control," he added.

Current World Champ Bettini, for his part, hasn't had a perfect preparation leading up to the big Belgian event. "I'm in reasonable form even though all of the problems I've had recently certainly don't help in my being at the top," he commented. "This is not the approach to the race that I dreamed of during the winter but I'll be giving my all as usual. If during the race, I realise that I'm not up to win, I'll do everything to help Tom and the rest of the team just as I did in Sanremo."

For Peter Van Petegem, who is expected to ride as a domestique for the team's leader, there shouldn't be any unexpected twists. "Our leader is Tom Boonen, then we have Paolo Bettini," he said. "On Saturday evening during a team meeting I'll find out about my role and what the team will be expecting of me." Nevertheless, 'De Peet' is suffering from a light inflammation of his knee.

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