Etixx-Quick Step have 12 wins already this year and we’ve not even reached the spring Classics – races that the team is built to win.
That strategy to target the early-season one-day races is evident in the team announced to ride Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, which includes the three riders who finished second, third and fourth last season.
If it isn’t enough that Etixx have about four leaders for the cobbled races already, three-time world time trial champion Tony Martin is also trying his hand at them this year after winning stage four of the Tour de France.
Niki Terpstra and Tom Boonen will probably lead the Etixx team in Saturday’s race, with Stijn Vandenbergh – who finished fourth last year – providing a more-than capable backup plan.
Then there’s Iljo Keisse, who loves a good late breakaway if the group is still in tact, but is also a strong domestique to pull his leaders over the cobbles.
The essential guide to the cobbled Classics
One of Etixx’s best hopes for Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, Zdenek Stybar, will not race Het Nieuwsblad, saving himself instead for his defence of Strade Bianche on March 5.
The team came away from last year’s race somewhat embarrassed after three of their riders – Boonen, Terpstra and Vandenbergh – were outfoxed by Team Sky’s Ian Stannard in the final kilometres. Luckily for Etixx, Stannard will not return to defend his title for a second year running.
Etixx-Quick Step team for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Tony Martin, Stijn Vandenbergh, Nikolas Maes, Iljo Keisse, Julien Vermote, Lukasz Wisniowski