Boonen chasing sixth cobblestone Classic win
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Boonen chasing sixth cobblestone Classic win

by Conal Andrews at 2:09 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

Former world road race champion Tom Boonen is set to put greater emphasis on this year’s Classics campaign rather than the Tour de France, saying that netting a sixth big Classic success would elevate him into the pantheon of great riders.

He has taken three Paris-Roubaix titles thus far, as well as two Tour of Flanders victories, and is working hard towards those races once again.

“I will try to win a spring Classic,” he told SportWereld. “If I take a fourth Roubaix, then I would have six cobblestone Classics. Then I’d step into the gallery of really, really great riders. I am realistic. I’ve also been very lucky. When I got third in my first Paris-Roubaix, I never dared to think that I would win three. That was a big dream.

“I would also go for the Tour of Flanders; a third would be special. For that, we have not only Stijn [Devolder] and I, but also [Sylvain] Chavanel. We have a great team for the Classics. I want win each at least once more in my career. Neither of those are easy targets.”

Should Boonen net another Hell of the North title, he’d equal the record held by his compatriot Roger De Vlaeminck. Mr Paris-Roubaix, as he is called, had a remarkable record in the race; he won four times, finished second on the same number of occasions, and was also third, fifth, and twice seventh.

Boonen is also eyeing another race as a probable target, namely Milan-San Remo. His best placing thus far has been third in 2007, and he wants to better that. “It remains a challenge. I never just sprint for second place,” he said, before mentioning his arch-rival Mark Cavendish. “I must try to get rid of the Briton,” he admitted, realising that the Manx rider is practically impossible to beat if it comes down to a sprint.

Before then, Het Nieuwsblad is another aim for him. He hasn’t yet won the prestigious Belgian event, and could well benefit from a new buildup.

“That is the first real appointment,” he said. “This year it is again possible as the Tour of California has moved to May. Now I will ride the Tour of Qatar and then the Tour of Oman, then I have one week to recover. And it will be without that jetlag of six hours in the body [incurred when returning from the US].

“It is my first big goal. In the past I already finished on the podium. I would like to erase that zero behind my name.”

Tour and worlds:

Two and a half years ago, Boonen took the first of what seemed certain to be several Maillot Verts in the Tour de France. He also triumphed on stages six and twelve, bringing his Tour tally to half a dozen. Since then, though, things haven’t worked out well at all.

In 2008 he tested positive for cocaine and was blocked from riding the race. He was popped again for the same substance last April, and ASO once again said it wouldn’t let him ride. On that occasion, he successfully appealed the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on the grounds that recreational drug use does not carry a WADA sanction.

He started the Tour yet flopped dramatically in the event, perhaps due to pressure or a stomach problem which affected him. Either way, his sprinting was completely ineffective. His best stage placing was sixteenth, and he withdrew two thirds of the way through.

The impression is that the arrival of Cavendish has cracked his self-belief. Realising that it would be hugely difficult to beat him, he has a plan B. “I will go there with a different mindset. I will try to win a stage in the Tour from a breakaway…that way, the work that Cavendish invests in a [leadout] train would be meaningless. I’ll sprint if I still have the desire to sprint [in bunch gallops], but to win from a small group would be much more rewarding.”

After the Tour, the Vuelta beckons. He will be one of many sprinters riding the race, but rather than obsessing about a stage win, the primary goal would be to prepare for a big end of season race, and the chance to once again take a rainbow jersey.

“If I don’t win a Classic, then I must become world champion,” Boonen said, no doubt remembering that sunny day in Madrid in September 2005, when he confirmed his promise with a sensational gold medal. “That would be the new objective. I already saw the course on DVD, and we will have a very good team.”

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