Boonen to change focus to time trials in 2010?
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Friday, October 9, 2009

Boonen to change focus to time trials in 2010?

by Steve Jones at 11:02 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

Belgian Tom Boonen is known best for his performances in the cobbled Classics like Paris-Roubaix, a race he has won three times, but he's also regarded as one of the top sprinters, and the former green jersey winner continues to demonstrate he can still compete with the world's fastest men.

In a surprise twist, Boonen told the Belgian radio station RTBF that he has his sights set on the World Championship Time Trial in Geelong, Australia next season. That means instead of duking it out with former Paris-Roubaix winner and current World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) only in the Spring, he's looking to tune his powerful build for racing against the clock.  Assuming Boonen can effectively change gears, it means the two will lock horns all season.

And while this would be a dramatic change in focus for the Quick Step team captain, it shouldn't come as a complete surprise.  This season has shown that the peloton is full of sprinters that can win on any given day, meaning decreased odds in the bunch gallops.

For starters, Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC), who will be losing Edvald Boassan Hagen and George Hincapie from his leadout train, was unstoppable all season. It's too early to tell whether trusty leadout man Mark Renshaw can keep the train on the tracks and continue the team's winning ways.

The Columbia-HTC rider is clearly faster than Boonen, and will also have a motivated Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) working to turn the tables for sprint supremacy over the winter. The American will likely see the change in the Columbia leadout as a weakness to exploit, giving him more confidence in 2010. Farrar was able to beat Cavendish in a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico during the early season, but for the rest of the year he couldn't come close.

With 20 wins this season, Cavendish's teammate André Greipel is as strong as Farrar and will also be highly motivated over the winter break. It's not likely that the Columbia team will forfeit wins by using the German to fill gaps in their leadout train, but if they do, it would more than make up for their personnel losses.

Then Boonen will also have to look at evergreen Alessandro Petacchi, who's experience made him one of the few riders that beat Cavendish to the line this season. The Italian is moving to Lampre-NGC next season with the promise of a dedicated leadout team. He's shown that he still has the speed in his legs to win, and the changes at Columbia-HTC could see an Italian team put up a strong challenge on the run into the line once again.

With all of that horsepower set to contest the chaotic dash to the line, not to mention several other evolving young sprinters, it's no wonder that Boonen might be looking to change his focus. During his early days as an Espoir he was able to win against the clock on occasion, and with his recent performances in the Vuelta a España and Eneco-Tour he may be thinking a new approach could increase his odds.

And while Boonen looks to eliminate crash marred finishes and the dependency on a strong leadout from his winning equation, team director Wilfried Peeters is not 100% on board with the plan. Peeters sees a perfect opportunity for Boonen to win another road race World Championship on next year's course, and has encouraged him to wait until Copenhagen the following year to try his hand at time trialing.


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