The Belgian was the picture of determination atop the start ramp in Den Helder, and recorded the fourth quickest time of the day to leave himself within striking distance of the leader's jersey on stage one - a pancake flat 176 kilometre affair from Wieringerwerf to Hoogeveen.
Currently that jersey belongs to Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher (right), and the German is unlikely to give up his jersey without a fight. While certainly not one of the established sprinters on the Pro Tour, he has sufficient power to hold his own in a frantic finish, and could well spoil the party.
CYCLING 2006 Stefan Schumacher
Image credit: Imago
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He admitted after yesterday's stage: "At the moment, I would of course like to go for overall victory. It's within my sights, as the stages suit me well. The time-trial in Landgraaf and the final stage in Ans seem tailor-made for me." As such he is likely to fight for every available bonus-second in the sprints.
The Germans Olaf Pollack and Robert Förster - Boonen's main rivals for the stage victory - are out of reach of the yellow jersey at 14 and 28 seconds back respectively, though both should figure among the main pretenders at the finish in Hoogeveen.
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