On Monday, the team trained for an hour and a half, followed by a break for coffee. The team then met with the staff of Specialized headquarters for their traditional lunch ride.
“I look around a lot, especially now,” Tom Boonen said of the scenery enjoyed while riding. “Today was a pretty easy ride in the sunshine. We enjoyed the views and appreciate the time we had to ride around this beautiful environment. A race, there’s a little less time to look, but sometimes when it becomes a little slow in the peloton, we have a chance to look around.”
After the lunch ride was over, Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team toured the headquarters. First, there was a game with the designers of Specialized. Each rider had to use their imagination and create a drawing of their own bike. Guess who was the worst judged designer? None other than Tom Boonen.
“It is fun, because you see this place just breathes cycling,” Boonen said. “It was fun meeting the people that are the brains behind the bikes. We get to race on these bikes that the other guys evolved to make better for us. It was fun. I was here a few years ago and some things have changed. It’s always like toys for us. Like a toy factory.”
Tom received a humorous prize for being the “worst designer”: world champion striped boxers.
Specialized, however, was not finished giving Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team a tour of their headquarters. They showed the team how they perform stress tests on bikes to analyze stiffness. The team was impressed with the work of Specialized at the facility.
“I think, because of the rules, it’s hard to create a bike that is better than the competition,” Boonen said. “But, also, because of the narrow line, any difference is huge because you have to play with one or two percent differences on the bike. It gets more important. If you had free reign, there would be like a 15 to 20 percent difference. Now it’s just important to be on top of that. I think there’s maybe two or three bike brands in the world who make bikes as advanced as Specialized. As a team it is an honor and pleasure to ride these bikes. We can choose whichever whatever bike — even in a stage race — we think is best to ride. These are really nice bikes.”
Boonen said he is consistently impressed by the service Specialized provides to Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team.
“Sometimes we say something with our bikes, that is a problem, and Specialized have already noticed,” Boonen said. “It’s a big difference when you work with a bike manufacturer that just gives you a bike or a frame, and you have it tested by a guy that you hardly know, and our people, who really ride these bikes themselves. It makes a big difference. It makes the time to adapt to a problem very short. That’s why I think they’re evolving so fast.”