Such is the strength in depth of Omega Pharma-Quickstep that the absence of one superstar creates space for another. Mark Cavendish had been scheduled to contest the ‘sprinter’s classic’, but has been feeling under the weather. Enter Tom Boonen, who has overcome a minor injury to his thumb at E3-Harelbeke.
Fate may decree that Cavendish’s loss is Boonen’s gain. Tornado Tom has given every appearance of being in top form since the beginning of the season, claiming a stage victory at the Tour of Qatar, and a record-breaking third victory at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
Three times a winner of Gent-Wevelgem, most recently in 2012, Boonen knows how to get the job done. If Peter Sagan (Canndondale) is seeking a lesson from history on how to achieve his stated aim of victory in all four cobbled Classics, he need look back only two years and study Boonen’s fantastic achievement.
A family bereavement ruled out Boonen from Milan-San Remo, and his performance at E3-Harelbeke was something of a damp squib, suffering his own misfortune and then having no incentive to chase with two team-mates in the breakaway. Gent-Wevelgem may offer the first opportunity this season for Boonen to exercise his obvious form in a full-blooded Classic. If the Flandrian is celebrating a record-breaking fourth victory in Wevelgem tomorrow, it will be another significant addition to his glittering palmares.