Tom Boonen just barely lost to Mark Cavendish in Clovis at the 2009 Tour of California.
Tom Boonen just barely lost to Mark Cavendish in Clovis at the 2009 Tour of California.

When cycling fans thing team Quick-Step, they think Tom Boonen. The Belgian superstar has raced in the blue and white jersey of Quick-Step since 2003, becoming one of the sport’s greatest classics racers, and developing into quite the sprinter along the way.

Boonen will headline the ProTour Quick-Step team at this year’s Tour of California, once again returning to battle with the world’s top sprinters in his first big stage race of the season. Boonen was in the mix during several stages of last year’s tour, but failed to conquer the seemingly unbeatable Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia,) coming in second to ‘Cav two days in a row, on stages four and five.

Boonen will again have to rely on his sprinting skills if he is to get a win in California, and will certainly have plenty of motivation to do so. Boonen had a rough classics season this year, marked by a disappointing fifth place finish at Paris-Roubaix and tough second place finishes at the Tour of Flanders and Milan-Sanremo. A stage win in California would certainly offer some redemption for the Belgian superstar. Watch for Boonen to shine in the early, fast, flat stages where he won’t have to deal with much climbing.

Spaniard Carlos Barredo is another strong rider who has contested several stages of the Tour de France, and could come out of the woodwork in the mountains, but will probably be limited by his role as a support rider for Boonen. Kevin Hulsmans has built a reputation as one of Boonen’s strongest supporters, and will surely be one of the Quick-Step riders pulling Boonen up the mountains to keep him strong for the sprints.

If Quick-Step is going to get a win at the Tour of California, it will have to come on the wheels of Tom Boonen, who desperately needs a stage win this season. The question is, will Boonen ever beat Cavendish in California, or has the Belgian’s career seen its best days pass by? The answers lies somewhere on the roads of California.

Quick Step Tour of California Roster:

Carlos Barredo Llamazales (ESP)
Tom Boonen (BEL)
Kurt Hovelynck (BEL)
Kevin Hulsmans (BEL)
Nikolas Maes (BEL)
Andreas Stauff (GER)
Jurgen Van De Walle (BEL)
Maarten Wynants (BEL)

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What do you think?