As we get set to begin the Spring Classics with Saturday’s running of the 102nd Milan-San Remo, it’s the perfect time examine some of the important questions facing the major riders and teams during this year’s spring campaign. As each question is posted, feel free to share your opinions, insights, and predictions as comments—your commentary and spirited dialogue is always appreciated. And while you’re at it, take a look at Questions 1 and 2.
3. Will Tom Boonen and Quick-Step atone for last year’s “sins”?
Here’s a riddle: when do second-places in Milan-San Remo, the E3 Prijs, the Tour of Flanders, and a fifth-place in Paris-Roubaix amount to a disappointing spring classics campaign?
The answer’s obvious: when you’re Quick-Step and Tom Boonen.
Last season, Quick-Step’s first win on home soil came on May 30th when Stijn Devolder won the overall title at the Tour of Belgium. But for a team built for success in the Spring Classics, that’s not a good thing. Worse still, of the three Belgians who won races for the team in 2010, only Tom Boonen remains. That’s a lot of pressure for one rider to shoulder—even if he’s already won two Ronde and three Paris-Roubaix titles.
This year, things aren’t off to a good start either—the team’s only win came over a month ago at the Tour of Qatar and the squad went winless during the Belgian opening weekend. Even worse, Boonen heads into the thick of his season without a clear indication of just who will be his primary lieutenant. Sylvain Chavanel was largely expected to fill the role vacated by Devolder’s departure, but he recently abandoned Paris-Nice with the flu. Niki Terpstra’s a good option, but it remains to be seen if he’s enough of threat to draw some attention away from Boonen.
In the end, if things are to improve, Boonen will likely have to get the job done by himself. Luckily, there are plenty of teams with stacked rosters, meaning Quick-Step won’t bear the brunt of the responsibility to control races. In fact, as crazy as it sounds, I’m starting to get a sense that Boonen’s actually a bit more of an underdog—or at least one of this year’s more anonymous favorites. If I were Tommeke, I’d do whatever I could to perpetuate that trend—all the way to the Roubaix velodrome.
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