Boonen concerned by wild sprinting in modern cycling
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Boonen concerned by wild sprinting in modern cycling

by VeloNation Press at 6:46 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
‘There are real cowboys… Nowadays the guys take too big risks’

Tom BoonenHe made his name as one of the fastest sprinters in the bunch, clocking up a large number of victories in that way including the 2005 world road race championships plus stages in the Tour de France.

In the past couple of seasons, though, Tom Boonen has however been less involved in mass gallops. That’s partly down to his form, which was at a lower level, but the Belgian has also explained that the near kamikaze actions of some in the peloton are the reason why he is hesitant to always get involved in the hurly burly of hectic finishes.

“Wouter's [Weylandt] death didn't change me as sprinter. Before his accident I knew the sport was dangerous and sprinting is for sure,” he wrote in his Het Nieuwsblad blog. “There are real cowboys who shoot their bullets in the wild. Riders who cross the street from left to right or pull at your steer in the middle of a sprint. In the past they spoke badly about Tom Steels throwing his bidon. But it was an intuitive reaction, nothing compared to what happens nowadays.

“In the 10 years I've been part of the bunch a lot changed. In the past there was more respect. McEwen, Petacchi, Zabel and Cipollini said 'Ok, you were fast today. I will win tomorrow'. Nowadays the guys take too big of risks. They push the line sometimes. Even if you have to explain it time after time it is hard to get by the supporters: we have the right to live our own life. When it is too dangerous, I just don't take part of it.”

Boonen appears to have returned to top form this year, once again riding strongly and winning well. It appears that the addition of several other big name riders to the new-look Omega Pharma Quick Step team has taken some pressure off his shoulders, and the general success of that squad has also created a momentum that is carrying him and the other riders forward.

Thus far, he has clocked up five wins as part of his best early-season start since 2008. He began with a stage victory in the Tour de San Luis in Argentina in January, then followed that up with two stage wins plus the overall classification in the Tour of Qatar. More recently, he was second in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and took his one hundredth career victory in winning stage two of Paris-Nice.

He had big hopes for Milan-Sanremo, and said that he felt he had perhaps his best form ever in the finale. However he was delayed when a rider in front of him crashed on the descent of the Poggio; he braked hard, a gap opened, and he couldn’t get back up to the chasing group.

The outcome was disappointing, but his physical fitness is encouraging. He can expect a strong showing in the upcoming northern Classics, and will also get involved in bunch gallops when things aren’t too chaotic.

He wrote about his mental process when he’s building up to a sprint. “At one kilometer of the line you get into a cocoon. The automatic pilot takes over all movements. The brain is turned off and you react on instinct…

“You have to lead yourself by that instinct. If you doubt, you are lost. I talked a lot about that with Wouter Weylandt. He always waited, left as second or third and was too late. 'Just go first!' I told him. If you lose, you lose. But nothing is that frustrating for a sprint if you can't shoot your bullet.”


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