Tom Boonen insists he can race at the highest level again
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Tom Boonen insists he can race at the highest level again

by Kyle Moore at 5:01 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Belgian looking forward to the Vuelta and Worlds

Tom BoonenTom Boonen has insisted that, in spite of a forgettable 2011 so far, he can still make it back to the highest level of the sport. He will try to go well in the Vuelta a España and the World Championships, which he hopes will be a springboard into a successful 2012 season.

The 30-year-old is having what is arguably his worst season since joining the Belgian team Quick Step. His two wins this season are of decent quality – Boonen won stage one of the Tour of Qatar as well as the Gent-Wevelgem classic, but overall, it has been a season of disappointment for the star rider. Most recently, he finished 110th in the Tour of Poland, where his best stage finish was only seventh.

In the Tour de France, Boonen couldn’t overcome the bad luck that seemed to constantly bite his Quick Step team, and injuries from a crash forced him to pull out on stage seven. But as he prepares for his second Grand Tour start of the season, Boonen continues to manage good spirits.

“I want to go well at the Vuelta, and have a good World Championships, as a basis for 2012,” he told Sporza. “I think that in 2012 I can come back at a higher level,” he added. “Not the very highest level, perhaps, but close.”

In ten years as a professional, Boonen has built an impressive palmarès. The three-time Paris Roubaix and double Flanders winner also has a Tour de France green jersey in his closet. In recent years, he has seen his top end speed diminish a bit, and he has struggled to find his niche.

His Gent-Wevelgem win this spring had many thinking that Boonen was regaining top form, and a fourth place in the Tour of Flanders was solid, but the Belgian has achieved little since. In Flanders, Quick Step management took some heat when some suggested that the team should have done more to support Boonen’s teammate Sylvain Chavanel, who finished second behind Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank-SunGard).

Boonen’s attitude suggests that he has accepted the fact that he cannot turn back time, but he believes he still has something left. “I’m about to turn 31. I have a few good years ahead. In what role, we’ll see.”

“I can adjust. I have no problem with that.”

With a merger with Omega Pharma in the cards for next year, and a roster shake-up or two likely, Boonen mused on the movements of classics rival Philippe Gilbert.

“If he goes to BMC, I think he is making a good choice,” he admitted. “They are a world-class team with a lot of charisma. But he may have to do things differently to work with all the leaders in the team.”

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