Tom Boonen: “The Olympics is an ideal course for me”
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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tom Boonen: “The Olympics is an ideal course for me”

by Ben Atkins at 1:04 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de Suisse, World Championships, Olympics
Belgian Cobble king explains his decision to miss the Tour de France and looks ahead to the World championships

tom boonenTom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) announced recently that he will be missing this summer’s Tour de France in order to concentrate on the Olympic Games road race, which will come just a week later. The Belgian Classics king, who wrote himself into the history books this spring with a fourth Paris-Roubaix victory (pictured), and a third in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, feels that the London course suits his characteristics. According to Sporza he is feeling good about his chances of adding Olympic gold to his rainbow jersey of 2005.

"In view of the Olympics I will not ride the Tour,” Boonen explained to both Het Nieuwsblad and the Gazet van Antwerpen. “That was not an easy decision, but we have three candidates for the top five in Paris in our team. I can’t believe there will be anybody at the Tour, who is using it to prepare for the Olympic Games.

There will undoubtedly be some London hopefuls at the Tour, including Great Britain’s big favourite Mark Cavendish (Team Sky), who will be chasing a second straight green jersey. For Boonen this is not the right preparation however, although he concedes that it may work for others.

“I can’t combine the Tour and the Games,” he said. “I'm always bad after the Tour. I think the Tour, for a non-climber, is not the ideal preparation for the Olympics. But it may be that the winner in London does come from the Tour.”

Several nations have taken squads of riders to the London course, particularly the circuit based on Surrey’s Box Hill, and Boonen professes to have liked what he saw when he rode last August’s test event.

"It is actually an ideal course for me,” he said. “Selective, but just not too tough.”

While the Belgian team for London has yet to be announced, Boonen knows what kind of riders he would like alongside him in the five-man team.

"I think we will have the best five Belgians going to London,” he reasoned. “But you can’t have five leaders at the start; one or two good helpers must be there. They should not only be looking to me, but be betting on two horses.

“A good [Philippe] Gilbert is more than welcome.”

The Olympic experience is also something that Boonen is looking forward to, having missed out in Athens 2004, and ruling himself out of a hilly course in Beijing 2008. With the road race falling on July 28th however, the morning after the opening ceremony, he will have to stick around after his event is over.

"After the road race, I hope to stay a few more days in London,” he said. “I would like some of the atmosphere. It will be strange, because we are the opening number a bit, but if you go home after our race, then you will only have seen nervous athletes.”

Retaking the rainbow, or maybe another driekleur...

Following the Olympics, Boonen’s next big target will be the World championships, in Limburg, Netherlands, in September, to take back the title he won in Madrid, Spain, in 2005. Although the course will greatly resemble the Amstel Gold Race, which Boonen doesn’t usually ride, the fact that the finish will come 1.7km after the top of the Cauberg climb could work in his favour.

"How I will prepare for the World championships, I don’t know,” he admitted. “After the Olympics we will look at my programme. I may ride the Vuelta [a España], but there are some options.

"The team time trial at the World Cup?” he continued. “We have been working on it since January. I think it's a great discipline, and with this team the race is possible; but it is an hour long taste of blood.”

Before then, and even before the Tour, will be the Belgian championships, in Geel, where he will be aiming to take back the black, yellow and red driekleur jersey from Gilbert, that he won in 2009.

“I live on the border of Mol and Geel,” he explained. “The Belgian championships does not cause me too much stress, but I will go into it at 100 percent. The Belgian championships is one of the hardest races to win; I expect that a group will ride away.

“Nevertheless, if it’s a sprint, then I'm a big contender,” he added. “But I don’t see it happening.”

Boonen’s build up to the Olympics began in today’s Tour de Suisse prologue, where he finished a quiet 130th behind Liquigas-Cannondale’s Peter Sagan, who is likely to be one of the Belgian’s biggest rivals in both London and Limburg, later in the year.


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