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Quick-Step for the Tour
 
By Staff
Date: 7/1/2005
Quick-Step for the Tour
 

By Jan Janssens

The Quick-Step team for this year’s Tour de France can, in short, be described as Tom Boonen + helpers, and the rest. That’s right, Boonen has a whopping 6 (six!) riders riding completely in his service…it’s almost like a flatlander Armstrong! Not that he doesn’t deserve his team’s confidence: with 2 stage wins last year (and probably more if he hadn’t trashed his  frame in 2 other sprints) and an amazing spring, Boonen has really established himself as one of crown princes of cycling. Not to mention that he’s a golden boy for the media: young, tall, good-looking and outspoken…you couldn’t ask for more. And this line-up is proof that his manager Patrick Lefevere is very much aware of this potential. In his typical way, Lefevere let us know earlier this year that he’s had enough of the well-paid and underachieving Spaniards that he signed 2 years ago, and lo and behold: no Spaniards on this team. As a direct consequence, the team’s ambitions for the overall seem to be rather limited.

Anyway, first on the list of Boonen Buddies is Kevin Hulsmans – and in his case, we should take that ‘buddy’ literally. Hulsmans once was touted as a great talent, but after a few lesser years he seems to be completely settling in the role of domestique. He’s one of Boonen’s best friends and his usual roommate, which goes a long way to explain why he’s on this team. Not that he doesn’t deserve to be on it, but some questions have been raised about his form: he dropped out of the breakaway group with cramps in his legs in the Belgian national championship, only halfway through the race…

Ah, Servais Knaven! What’s not to like about this guy? You could build a house on Knaven. Make that a skyscraper, one inhabited by nothing but hideously overweight people. That’s how solid this guy is. The former Paris-Roubaix winner is the road captain, and he’ll be of great importance to balance out Boonen’s youthful enthusiasm. Apart from that he’s the heart of the team in the TTT, and the guy minimizing time differences with breakaways to pave the path towards a sprint for Boonen. And more importantly for all the strugglers in the Tour (and God knows this sprinter-oriented team will struggle in the mountains), Knaven is also one of the top bus drivers in the peloton. Things have to go really fubar before Servais lets a bus run in outside of the time limit. Fellow Dutchman Bram "The Tank" Tankink will be required to do exactly the same thing as his older compatriot, i.e., keeping breakaways in check. While he doesn’t have Knaven’s awesome experience, he’s really grown into the Quick-Step team, getting stronger every year. A valuable helper.

The Italian department of the Boonen Armada usually only wakes up once they smell the finish line: Italo-American (or was it Americo-Italian?) Guido Trenti and veteran lead-out man Stefano Zanini. They are the guys of the last km: Trenti sets a high pace until about some 500 meters from the end, then Zanini takes over, kicking up the speed a bit higher until the last 250m, and then it’s time for Boonen himself…in theory, a mighty system. But we all know where theorizing about sprinting leads us: trying to keep your kneecaps intact after owing the local gambling crime lord 2 months of wage. Anyhoo… Zanini is a monster; having worked with all the big names in the bizz (Steels, Cipo) he knows what to do. It should be noted that Trenti has been having troubles with an injury on his behind lately, even to the extent that it threatened his Tour selection. So it’s an open question if he’s recovered enough from that to be in top shape to help out Boonen.

Last but not least is ultra-domestique Wilfried Cretskens. Much like Vansevenant at the Lotto team, everyone knows his name and respects him; but barely anyone knows how the hell he looks! But, that is the mark of any good helper…for the record, he’s white, has average hair in terms of both length and colour and doesn’t sport any facial tattoos. I’m sure you’ll spot him in no time in the peloton, with such distinguishing features.

In the other corner, practising black magic on a Lefevere voodoo doll because of a lack of team support: it’s Michael "witch doctor" Rogers. The young Australian World Champion ITT showed some very, very nice things in the Tour de Suisse, only barely missing out on the overall victory. His climbing seems to have improved tremendously without any apparent loss of his (already impressive) TT abilities –which is quite rare. This means that he could end up very high in the overall, near the top 5 even. His lack of mountain support will be negligible, as he’d be following wheels anyway. It’s only in the unlikely event of Rogers ending up in yellow on the important climbs that his weak team will really become an issue. But don’t worry, he’ll still have his voodoo.

The way we’re talking about Rogers it’s almost as if he won’t have anyone at all to assist him when the road goes up, but the Quick-Step troops do pack one man to fill that role with Patrik Sinkewitz. The young German rider is something of a "light" version of Rogers: a decent rider for the overall, but not spectacular in any department. But as with some other riders on the Quick-Step squad, some questions are being asked about Sinkewitz’s form: in the Tour de Suisse he left Rogers isolated awfully soon in the final (mountain-packed) stage and forced him to battle it out on his own against the TerminAitor (and we all know machines from the future > voodoo). Sinkewitz’ presence (or lack thereof) could have very well meant the difference between winning and losing the overall in Switzerland for Rogers. But hopefully for him, Sinkewitz will peak just right during the Tour, and assist him when necessary.

I wish I could make a spectacular conclusion here, but as you can imagine there isn’t really much to say…Boonen has a lot of support in the sprints and will try his hand at the green jersey, Rogers doesn’t have much support and is going for the overall…eh voila! What I can do is make a side note: it’s a big question whether Boonen’s ‘train’ will be fresh enough come the final kms of every stage. Remember, Petacchi isn’t here, Zabel isn’t here, Freire isn’t here, Cipo isn’t here (anymore)…that’s already 4 less teams that really want to have a sprint. Apart from Davitamon-Lotto and Crédit Agricole there’s hardly another team with a realistic chance of winning a sprint. So, the danger exists that everyone will be looking at Quick-Step to do the chasing, leaving them with an empty tank once the finish line is in sight. But no matter what happens, it’ll certainly be interesting to see.

 
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