Milan Sanremo: Boonen says he’s back in good form - ‘I’ve started to feel like my normal self’
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Friday, March 15, 2013

Milan Sanremo: Boonen says he’s back in good form - ‘I’ve started to feel like my normal self’

by Shane Stokes at 7:54 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Milan-Sanremo
 
Past runner-up is one of Omega Pharma Quick Step’s leaders for Sunday’s Classics

Tom BoonenAfter a very disrupted start to the year when he missed both the Tour de San Luis and the Tour of Qatar due to the effects of injury, Tom Boonen has said that he believes he is now back in the shape needed to content for Milan-Sanremo and the other Spring Classics on his programme.

The Omega Pharma Quick Step rider will line out on Sunday alongside strong team-mates such as Sylvain Chavanel and 2009 race winner Mark Cavendish, and was sounding upbeat about his condition in today’s press conference.

“Paris-Nice was what I thought it would be. I started out okay like I thought I would, and I ended up a little bit better, but it was also a really demanding race,” he said. “Everyone was really tired like always at Paris - Nice at the end. As for my confidence returning, it was never gone. I knew what was missing, and I think I just followed the steps that are necessary to get back on the old level again.

“Milano - Sanremo is the next step in the evolution to my target races. It's not the biggest objective of the Spring Classics, but I think maybe I will be ready to do a good race on Sunday. I've started to feel like my normal self and it is about time.”

Boonen’s best result thus far this season were fifth and seventh on stages of the Tour of Oman. He was quiet in Paris-Nice, but appears to have been satisfied with how that race helped him build form.

Still, he’s not laying out specific targets for Sunday’s Classics. “I have no goals set up,” he said. “I want to do as good as possible. It will be a very successful race if I pass the first portion with the first group, but of course I think in the back of your mind you're thinking about a little bit more. I've had some good memories of this race.”

Boonen finished second in Sanremo in 2010 and was also third in 2007, fourth in 2006 and eighth in 2005. Last year he was back in 22nd, yet went on to dominate the next two Classics. He said that Sanremo is a tricky race to get right; for that reason, if he did pull off the win on Sunday, it would be hugely rewarding for him, in terms of the sense of achievement.

“Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are just races that suit me better,” he said. “I focus more on them, maybe that's true, but even then I think if I focused 100 percent on Milan – San Remo as I did in the past, it didn't go as well. It's a difficult race to win.”

Three components of Sanremo contention:

“You either have to be the fastest guy, or the best descender, or the best guy on the climb. Until now I've never been one of these three,” he admitted. “I could have won it one time when I got third, but that year I really had the legs to do it, but the other times I was always in the right spot. I mean when I got second it was just Freire that was just stronger.”

Freire has retired and thus will not be part of the peloton on Sunday. However he sees another rider as being a big threat, with the vacuum left by the Spaniard’s retirement being filled by another very fast, complete competitor.

“I think with Sagan, it will be very hard to win this race,” he said, pinpointing the Cannondale rider as being the one the team is most worried about. “Still, we're thinking about a good tactic for Sunday. I don't think we can follow Moser [Moreno Moser, Sagan’s team-mate] on the climb. That's one problem. The other option is to beat Sagan in the sprint. I think we have to focus on that. But how we will do it, that's our little secret.”

If it does come down to a gallop, Cavendish will be the team’s big hope, providing he makes it over the climbs and is still in contention at that point. He did so in 2009 and won the race, but since then has not been in the mix in the finale.

Cavendish has played down his chances, saying that he doesn’t want to target the race, but most feel that is bluffing on his part. He’s already won six races this year and said several weeks ago that he was lighter than before; there’s no reason to believe that he isn’t in shape, and that he won’t give his utmost to win again.

If the Manxman does however miss out on the selection, Boonen will try to step up in the finale. He’s not as fast as his team-mate but, as he showed last year, he’s still a very fast rider, particularly at the end of a hard race. With Chavanel as another card to play, the team should be one of the strongest on Sunday.

Unlike Cavendish, though, Boonen said that he’s not comfortable with the thoughts of the very wet conditions that are predicted. “I prefer nice weather. I don't prefer the rain. Not at all,” he said. “If the weather will be like they say it is, five or six degrees and rain, it's going to be fifty percent of the riders that have been eliminated already.

“From the fifty percent that are still in the race, another fifty percent will crash,” he added, laughing. “Not much left. What I mean is bad weather will possibly eliminate many riders from contending.”

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