Our team and staff await with confidence the 100th edition of Belgium's most important event.
The Tour of Flanders is regarded as one of cycling's most toughest races, one which separates the men from the boys and which requires strong legs, a bulletproof tactic and a hint of luck in order to get that much-desired victory and engrave your name forever in the history of this sport. It's a diabolical race, which likes to play at all times with the riders, who are reduced to the role of mere actors once they line up in Brugge.
This year, the event will go down in history even before the peloton will start, as it celebrates its 100th edition, one which is very likely to turn into a war of attrition on the short and steep cobbled climbs that are going to act as launch pad for the favourites once the race will hit its final 60 kilometers. Such hills as the Koppenberg, Taaienberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg will have a strategic importance in the race and will see the big names battling it out there before arriving at the finish line in Oudenaarde, after 256 gruesome kilometers.
On Friday afternoon, the Quick-Step headquarters hosted the team's pre-Ronde van Vlaanderen press conference, where the riders came all suited up, just like in the photoshoot which they did a couple of months ago for the 2016 campaign of the company, which drew comparisons between world-class riders and Quick-Step's high-quality design floors.
A three-time winner of the race, Tom Boonen will ride the Tour of Flanders for the 14th time in his career, and is excited to give it a go one more time and be once again among the protagonists: "I'm very happy to be here after missing on last year's race, especially as this is the 100th edition. De Ronde is an event which continues to grow and get more and more attention from the people outside Belgium, who come in huge numbers to watch it and to live this special atmosphere. Concerning the race and the battle for victory, the final 50 kilometers will be crucial and we have to pay attention to the small details, as these will make the difference in the end."
Etixx – Quick-Step will have strength in numbers at the Tour of Flanders, with the likes of Dutch champion Niki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar looking to provide the team with multiple options for all kind of scenarios. Of course, this means other riders will try to put them under pressure, but Zdenek Stybar – one of the best bike handlers in the world – is confident that the team can pull it off: "I am really excited and I'm looking forward to this race, the biggest and toughest of the year. Everybody worked hard all winter long to be ready for this race and we want to give it all in order to be up there in the decisive moments. We are focused and aware that everything can play a part in the outcome, from the hills to the high temperatures, who could take their toll on some riders."
Also making the team for the Ronde van Vlaanderen will be Tony Martin, one of the strongest riders in the peloton, who has been a regular feature in Etixx – Quick-Step's spring campaign this season. The German, a triple ITT world champion, has already learned the trade on the cobbles and is keen to bring his contribution to the team's success: "I'm very happy to ride Flanders for the first time in my career. I look forward to it, although I know it's going to be a tough event. After doing some one-day races in March, now I know how things go, what are the important points to stay at the front or what strategy should I have. I'm feeling more and more at home on the cobbles and I'm very happy to be part of this beautiful period of the calendar."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele