Months after saying he’d never return to the Tour de France, Boonen now having second thoughts
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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Months after saying he’d never return to the Tour de France, Boonen now having second thoughts

by Shane Stokes at 6:16 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Belgian likely attracted by nine cobblestone sectors on stage five to Porte du Hainaut

Tom BoonenTom Boonen suggested in the past that he might not ride the Tour de France again but, perhaps tantalised by the news that there will be nine cobblestone sections on stage five of next year’s race, the Belgian appears now to be having second thoughts.

His Omega Pharma Quick Step general manager Patrick Lefevere has revealed that there is a chance that the former world champion could be in Britain next year, lining out in the race once again.

“To our own surprise, in the past few days Tom has expressed interest in the Tour. He thinks of riding,” Lefevere told Sport.be after yesterday's Tour 2014 route unveiling.

However it’s a little too soon for the rider’s fans to take it for granted. “At the same time, I realize that it is only October. In the past he was also interested, but still dropped out.”

Boonen has clocked up a total of six individual stage wins in the race, as well as netting the points classification in 2007. However while he was once one of the fastest sprinters in the sport, changing characteristics plus an element of fear have mean that he now rarely contests bunch sprints.

“I do not know if I want to race sprints again. I still have the chance…I did some good sprints in recent weeks and months,” he told Feltet.dk in 2011. “But the power struggles scare me. It seems to me that there's too many crashes.”

In May of last year he confirmed to Belga that there is a chance he might never be back. “Will I take part in another Tour? The chance is very low,” he said then. “Maybe I will never return.”

The rider has been a professional for twelve years, but has only done the race six times. He competed each year between 2004 and 2007, missed it in 2008 due to a positive test for cocaine, returned in 2009, was absent the following season due to a knee problem and then rode his most recent edition in 2011.

While he is undoubtedly one of the greatest one day riders in the sport – and arguably ever, with four Paris-Roubaix wins and three editions of the Tour of Flanders – his place as the team sprinter has been taken by Mark Cavendish. If he is to go to the Tour, he would have to be willing to work for the Briton.

Lefevere says it’s a case of working out how he would slot in, and the rider being happy with that.

“The question is what role Tom would have within the Tour team,” he said. “He will not be drawn to the sprints. On the other hand, an anonymous ride for three weeks is nothing. A champion like Boonen wants to show what he can do.”

Fortunately, stage five offers him a very good chance to chase a seventh Tour stage win, and will likely be the reason why he rides if he does indeed decide to do so.

What is certain is that Cavendish wants to be there. He spoke about his goals for the race yesterday, making clear that winning stage one and taking the yellow jersey for the first time in his career is a big target, and so too adding to his stage wins on the Champs Elysees.

“The focus for us will be on Cavendish,” said Lefevere. “I counted eight possible sprint stages. With proper form, Cav’ could also take the stage win and the yellow jersey on the first stage.”

He added that the team’s new signing Rigoberto Uran was unlikely to do the race, instead focussing on the Giro d’Italia – where he was second this year – the Vuelta a España and the world championships.

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