Boonen pleased with return to racing, but will give Memorial Frank Vandenbroucke a miss
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Boonen pleased with return to racing, but will give Memorial Frank Vandenbroucke a miss

by Shane Stokes at 8:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Tours
Believes he could have fought for gold in Geelong

Tom BoonenAlthough he is pleased with how he felt in the Circuit Franco-Belge, Quick Step rider Tom Boonen has decided to withdraw from the Quick Step team for the Memorial Frank Vandenbroucke. He believes that tomorrow’s race, which represents a restarting and renaming of the previous-run Binche-Tournai-Binche event, comes a bit too soon for him.

“After the four days in the Circuit Franco-Belge, I'd rather recover well and concentrate on my training,” he said. “After 102 days without competing I'm starting to feel tired and I need to recuperate. This week I'll be doing a couple of important training sessions in anticipation of the Paris-Tours, a challenging race with significant mileage.”

The Belgian was second behind Philippe Gilbert in last year’s event, and will aim to ride well there again if his limited racing permits him to do so. However on the basis of the Circuit Franco Belge, it appears very unlikely he’ll be in contention for the win.

Boonen didn’t dispute any bunch sprints in his first race back, and was lying 99th at the end of stage three, 45 seconds behind the leader – and subsequent overall winner – Adam Blythe (Omega Pharma Lotto). He was part of a group of riders who finished outside the time limit on yesterday’s final stage.

Still, he’s pleased with how things went. “I'm really happy with how I felt at the Franco-Belge. The knee didn't give me problems and it was a good feeling to return to pedalling in a group.”

His only concern was a fear of being involved in another fall. “Saturday’s stage in the pouring rain was difficult to handle,” he told Sporza. “Then I noticed that there is a certain fear on my mind, the fear of falling again. It will take some time before that feeling goes away.”

Regrets missed chance at the worlds:

Boonen was world road race champion in Madrid five years ago and considers yesterday’s Elite road race as a missed opportunity. When he’s on top form, he can climb well on short, steep ramps, as evidenced by his two wins in the Tour of Flanders. Thor Hushovd (Norway) was quickest in the final gallop yesterday and he is a rider Boonen has been quicker than on many occasions.

Of course, it’s difficult to know for sure how he would have done. Hushovd was in fine form and sprinting speed after 263 kilometres is different to that in shorter events. Still, it’s clear that he wishes he was there.

“You only get two or three chances in life to be world champion,” he told Sporza. “This was perhaps my second.

“It is always easy to talk about it in hindsight, but if I was in shape, I would have been in that group. Of course, it’s a different matter to say I would have won.”

He’s basing his assessment on who was there at the end rather than his impressions of the course; in fact, he confessed that he only saw the ending. “I only saw the last two kilometres. And that was the retransmission,” he admitted. “I’m not an early bird.

“I saw how Thor Hushovd took the sprint, I’m happy for him. He is a deserved world champion. I had already noticed in training that he looked very sharp.”

Boonen will have a chance to aim for the rainbow bands again; next year’s road race championship is in Copenhagen, and on a course that suggests it will be settled in a bunch sprint. That said, yesterday’s circuit was tough enough to see off the likes of Mark Cavendish and André Greipel; the same can’t be said of the 2011 course. In that light, maybe yesterday’s race was indeed a golden chance that was missed.


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