This weekend’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will signal the start of Tom Boonen’s final chapter in pro cycling, as the Quick-Step Floors rider and Classics legend is set to call time on his career on April 9th. The 36-year-old Belgian has already completed two stage races in 2017 and is now looking forward with optimism and confidence to this weekend.
“I feel good coming back from Oman despite the crash on the first stage, which was actually my only objective for that race. But other than that, I had good days in Oman and was able to do the preparation that I was supposed to do. In that week alone I had 1200 kilometres in the legs, so that’s perfect”, said Boonen.
“I’m happy to start racing in Belgium. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is always a special event, an important moment in Flanders: the first race, the first time people come out to watch the race, the first time we race in Belgium, the first time on the cobbles. I can’t wait!”
Boonen, who throughout his career notched up 19 victories in cobbled classics, will be joined for the 73rd edition of the race by two-time champion Philippe Gilbert, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin and Julien Vermote. For the 70th Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Tim Declercq and Dries Devenyns will step in, replacing Keisse and Terpstra, but the team is still subject to change depending on what will happen on Saturday.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will see the peloton take on 13 hills (including the legendary Muur-Kapelmuur, Kruisberg and Taaienberg) and 10 pavé sectors, last of which comes 20 kilometres before the riders arrive in Ghent.
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (200.7 kilometres), a race in which Tom holds the record for the most victories – three (2007, 2009, 2014) – will feature 12 hills, the most important of which is Oude Kwaremont, one of Flanders’ iconic climbs. 2200m-long and kicking up at 11.6%, Oude Kwaremont comes in the second half and is sure to bring the race to life.
“Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is always an important start of the classics seasons. The guys coming from the desert and from Algarve, where we had nice weather and normal roads, will have to adapt to the different conditions in Belgium. Saturday and Sunday they’ll have to get used to riding on the cobbles again and the rider who finds the easiest way to adjust will get the best results. In both Omloop and Kuurne we start with our typical classics team, who is strong on the Belgian roads, so I guess we just have to be patient and see how things pan out”, said Directeur Sportif Wilfried Peeters, who’ll lead the team from the car at this week-end’s races, together with Tom Steels.