Boonen leads strong Etixx-QuickStep team in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Etixx – Quick-Step will line-up in this weekend for the 71st Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, respectively the 68th Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, two races which saw the team taste success for a combined total of 8 times in the past. Created in 1945, Omloop marks the start of the cobbled Classics season, driving the fans’ passion early in the year, as the riders are coming to the start in Ghent prepared to overcome the small climbs, the cobbled sections and the cold weather in order to get the glory at the end of a 200 km-long journey. Covering iconic climbs such as Muur-Kapelmuur, Valkenberg or Taaianberg, and the cobbled sectors of Haaghoek, Paddestraat or Lange Munte, the race is sure to provide the riders plenty of opportunities to attack and make the difference.
Tony Martin will focus also on the cobbled races this season, after he proved at last year’s Tour de France, where he won a stage, that he’s capable of taming the cobbles. Still, the three-time ITT World Champion is aware that on Saturday things will be completely different than in the Grande Boucle, and that’s why he is willing to learn as much as possible ahead of this new challenge. For Martin, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will mark the second time in his career that he’ll ride a cobbled Classic, following the 2008 Dwars door Vlaanderen, where he came 42nd.
“It was a nice experience, a mix of cobbles on the climbs and on the flat. I really liked it. Of course, it will be different during the race, when 200 guys will fight to get to the front. I’m feeling good, I’m happy and I can’t wait for Saturday to come. My teammates and Tom Steels explained to me today how important is to be at the front when the real race starts. I will also watch some videos of the past editions again, to get the feeling of the race, and I’m sure I will be ready for Saturday”, said Martin following Wednesday’s recon.
Tom Boonen, Iljo Keisse, Nikolas Maes, Tony Martin, Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh, Julien Vermote and Lukasz Wisniowski are the riders who will race the first cobbled Classic of the season for Etixx-QuickStep.