Boonen talks 2010, asked to wait on TTs
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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Boonen talks 2010, asked to wait on TTs

by Nick Mulder at 8:53 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

Quick Step leader Tom Boonen hopes to shine both in the time trials next year and capture a fourth record-tying Paris-Roubaix title, he explained to Het Nieuwsblad in an interview. This past year the Belgian national champion demonstrated his ability to race against the clock with several strong performances including a second place in the Vuelta a Espana prologue behind, arguably the best time trialist in the world, Fabian Cancellara from Team Saxo Bank.

Boonen, 29, dreams of a time trial win at the World Championships in Geelong, Australia next year, but Belgian national director Carlo Bomans is pleading with the Belgian to put off his objective for one more year. “It was my ambition but Carlo Bomans asked me to put everything on the road world championships for at least another year,” explained the Belgian.

Boonen has, however, already started his preparations for next season, “I am doing all of my strength work on the time trial bike using indoor rollers. It is the first time that I’ve done this but it helps me learn to ride in the position better. I hope I can still improve by a few percent.”

Quick Step will no longer be riding Specialized bikes next year, meaning the high-end time trial bike that took engineers three years to perfect, won’t be in the team’s arsenal. Instead, the world’s leading classics squad will be turning to Eddy Merckx’s bikes, after the American bike manufacturer jumped to Tour de France champion Alberto Contador’s Astana cycling team. “The switch to Eddy Merckx Bikes means additional work but I am happy with the change. In regards to communication there is nobody better than Eddy Merckx, he’s already working very hard to perfect his bikes for us,” he explained.

Although the Belgian has changed focus, he will remain concentrated on Paris-Roubaix having won the “Hell of the North” on three earlier occasions. “I want to beat Roger de Vlaeminck’s record, it’s a question of honor,” he said in the Gazet van Antwerpen. The legendary Belgian has won Paris-Roubaix four times.

“My program will remain unchanged, Qatar, Oman and then the Flemish classics. This is my perfect formula for success in the important classics,” he said. Boonen can expect to find a strong challenger in compatriot Philippe Gilbert, “He has a great style of racing. I am happy that he has found his place at the top,” he said of his rival.

This season has shown that the peloton is full of sprinters that can win on any given day which has severely decreased his odds in a mass gallop to the line. Most obvious is sprint king Mark Cavendish from Columbia-HTC, who will be losing Edvald Boassan Hagen and George Hincapie from a leadout train that was unstoppable all season. Time will tell whether trusty leadout ace Mark Renshaw can keep the train on the tracks and continue their winning ways.

But the Columbia-HTC rider is going to 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 there is evergreen Alessandro Petacchi, whos 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 despite the cloud that still looms over the team’s ProTour status. 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 dominate with their trademark 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 is 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 both the Vuelta a España and the 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 like Bomans 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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