Friday, 4 January 2013
Omega Pharma-Quickstep: Who's Boss?
The above video displays a very deliberate show of unity between Omega Pharma-Quicksteps biggest players Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen and Cavendish certainly looks pleased to be out of the blue and black of Team Sky but is everything really that simple? and just exactly who is the boss?...
Both Tom Boonen, king of the classics and Cavendish, King of the sprints have spoken publicly about how neither feels there will be any disputes as to who is nominated team leader for which races. With both having different immediate goals and seemingly, thanks to Tom Boonens age, different skills it is conceivable that everything will be fine at OPQS.
Boonen will once again focus on the cobbled classics where his strengths now lie and Cavendish will be looking for the flat finishes and Tour stage wins as the realisation that Boonens top-end sprint is finally giving up the ghost but there is one race where things might not be so clear cut: Milan-San Remo. Both have expressed an interest and with Cavendish needing possibly a little extra help with MSR I'm not sure Boonen will be willing to donate half of the team for his needs.
Original plans meant that Cavendish would start his 2013 season at Qatar whilst Boonen would head out early at Tour de San Luis next month. Illness appears to have forced a change in schedule and the swap has been made, meaning Boonen will start at Qatar in his preferred pan-flat race and Cavendish will be forced to ride San Luis which is a tad hillier than the Manxman is accustomed too. Is this a first hint at who's wearing the trousers at Omega Pharma-Quickstep? I'm hoping not.
In fact the early start and hillier route of the Tour de San Luis might work in Cav's favour, especially if he is chosen as team leader at Milan-San Remo having turned up last year out of form and overweight. Last years edition saw a sluggish Mark Cavendish come to the realisation that he just wasn't physically able to contest the race.
We had a hint that maybe Mark Cavendish wasn't going to get everything his way when he first signed for OPQS and was forced to drop his long time personal coach, Rod Ellingworth in favour of team staff. Contract negotiations are not necessarily an insight into the working of a team on the road though.
Cavendish will be of huge importance to the team next year if only for the amount of 'guaranteed' victories and publicity it brings in, but for a Belgian team it's always the classics that truly matter and my guess is that Boonen's wage and rank is probably higher than that of Marks. With age creeping up fast on Cavendish and an expression of future interest in the classics when his turn of pace starts to falter, whether the same can be said for 2014 and beyond is a different matter...