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"Maybe I don’t take the start as a grand favourite on Sunday. Maybe it’s a good thing or maybe it’s a bad thing, we will see. If I can take the start then I’m always able to win the race there," Boonen said.

Photo: OPQS / Tim De Waele

NIKI TERPSTRA

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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RONDE VAN VLAANDEREN

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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06.04.2014 @ 08:30 Posted by Aleksandra Górska

Tom Boonen’s disposition ahead of the major cobbled classics was one of the hotly discussed topics last two months, first after his splendid showings in the season’s opening races, and more recently because of personal problems disrupting his preparations for Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. Even though the 33-year old Belgian admitted that latest happenings didn’t put him in a position of a grand favorite to take the spoils in the Flemish monument today, but he still has several cards to play and believes that a victory is not beyond his reach.

 

"I don’t think that being a favourite is important," he said at his team’s pre-race press conference on Friday. "If I take the start then I’m always capable of winning. Maybe I don’t take the start as a grand favourite on Sunday. Maybe it’s a good thing or maybe it’s a bad thing, we will see. If I can take the start then I’m always able to win the race there."

 

Last year’s Ronde van Vlaanderen route with all major hellingen situated far from the finish line and big amount of long flat stretches has been hugely criticized for ‘killing the action’ of the race, and thus organizers have altered it once again for this season’s edition. However, Boonen predicts that those changes can bring an exactly opposite effect than expected, making the race even more closed.

 

"It won’t make the race harder, as the climbs are more focussed on the final now," he explained. "It will be difficult to start racing earlier. Sometimes putting less climbs in the final makes it more open and gives the race more possibilities. I think it will be hard to start racing 50km to the finish line, because there are so many difficult climbs there."

 

Having two other potential race winners in the persons of impressive Niki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar, Omega Pharma-Quick Step certainly lines up at Ronde van Vlaanderen with the strongest roster, while Cannondale’s ability to support Sagan properly in major classics has been questioned recently. However, the 33-year old Belgian suggests that reported weakness of the Italian team in relation to OPQS or Trek Factory Racing shouldn’t be as important factor as it has been suggested, and Slovak’s tactics for the race are, in fact, absolutely clear and simple.

 

"I don’t think that Peter will be affected by not having many teammates. He just has to follow. He’s good enough to do that, he doesn’t really need teammates. For him, tactics, he just has to stay with Fabian and me and we’ll see what happens. For him the tactics aren’t so hard, he just has to stay with the guys at the front and try to be a passenger."

 

Lining up at the start in Brugge today, Boonen will face an opportunity to put himself ahead of the likes of Johan Museeuw or Fiorenzo Magni by winning Ronde van Vlaanderen for the fourth time. Facing such circumstances, the 33-year old Omega Pharma-Quick Step captain insisted that there is no pressure in regards to breaking any records and, in fact, he feels reassured by an opportunity to take advantage of the experience he has. Exactly like Cancellara.

 

"I don’t see it as pressure, it’s kind of relaxing, knowing that I’ve won it a few times. I’ve done every done everything to be at the level that I am at now. Due to circumstances, the last two weeks have been a little bit hard. If I don’t win then it won’t be my fault. I’ve done everything I can to be on this level. I think we will have a good battle and I know the race pretty well and I have a few cards to play."

 

"Winning the race is important and that’s what’s playing in my mind. They way I want to win the race is not important. I’m just trying to win the race. Against who or in which way, I don’t really care."

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