Filippo Pozzato Tour de France st5

Defending champion Filippo Pozzato will not bid for a second consecutive Het Volk title tomorrow.

The Italian is not part of the eight-man Liquigas squad. Instead the team's hopes will rest on Belgian Frederik Willems.

Magnus Backstedt is another notable absentee. The Slipstream rider broke his collarbone at the Tour of Qatar and is not quite ready for a return to the rough stuff, although he's still confident of being fit for Paris-Roubaix in April.

Organisers released their latest start list this afternoon and other than Pozzato's omission, the big news is that both Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini lead a powerful Quick Step team despite only flying in from the Tour of California on Monday.

Whether they'll be at their best given the possible effects of jet-lag and the time difference, remains to be seen, which is why the better bets for Quick Step would appear to be Gert Steegmans, Stijn Devolder and Wouter Weylandt.

Robbie McEwen and Leif Hoste are in the Silence-Lotto team. Philippe Gilbert leads Francaise des Jeux, Nick Nuyens heads Cofidis and Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O'Grady are both included in the CSC team.

Roger Hammond is in the High Road line-up that boasts two super sprinters, Andre Greipel and Bernhard Eisel. Jeremy Hunt and Thor Hushovd lead Credit Agricole.


The Big Preview: Het Volk

Hammond checks out Het Volk course

Will jet-lag take its toll on Boonen?


Omloop Het Volk ? official site

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne ? official site

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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.