An interview with Tom Boonen, April 3, 2006
Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) won his second Ronde van Vlaanderen in a row with yet another powerful performance over the rest of his rivals. After following Leif Hoste's attack on the Valkenberg with 30 km to go, Boonen stayed with the Discovery rider and the pair came to the finish together. In a two man sprint with Boonen involved, there is usually only one outcome. After the race, Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé was at the post-race grilling of Tom Boonen.
Q: Did you feel enormous pressure to win the race today?
TB:I'm very strange in that way. In the Driedaagse van De Panne-Koksijde I was stressed all the time. Constantly, you try to avoid falls and illness. But after Wednesday, I was confident that I wouldn't experience a setback in my fitness. Today, I didn't have time to think because the race was on right from the start. We even didn't have time to take a piss.
Q:Is this win more beautiful than last year's win?
TB:It pleases me more because it's a win as a world champion and as a top favourite. I didn't think a lot about tactics. My only plan was to arrive at the Muur van Geraardsbergen in the leading group. There I would attack and see what was left of the contenders.
Q:What did you say to Leif Hoste when you arrived at the final kilometre?
TB:I said that I wasn't going to start the sprint riding in front. That's part of the psychological battle. I'm in a very strong position, because for me, nothing is really necessary. The only moment that I panicked a bit was after 120 kilometres. There I thought that I had a flat tyre but it proved to be nothing. Probably I was just pedaling too hard.
Q:Only fifteen riders could ride up the Koppenberg, is that not unfair?
TB:It is an extreme hill because there are no cobblestones on it. Certainly not on the last part, there they just threw a few rocks together. There are gaps of more than twenty centimetres between those stones. If someone falls between them, you'll probably never see that person again. But it is part of the race. Just like the Valkenberg where I warned Bettini about the importance of it. Most riders think that it's too far away from the finish. Not me, because it's an ideal platform to attack if you feel good.
Q:Do you think that you're riding stronger uphill and also less defensively than last year?
TB:I already knew that my climbing is better. My other riding style is logical because I always need to react. The others were out of energy so that's the most obvious tactic.
Q:Why did Leif Hoste keep working in the escape, knowing that you're faster in the sprint?
TB:What else could he do? If he didn't, he would finish fifth or sixth. Hincapie would also not have won from me, so that's no excuse either. We both had reasons to continue our escape, like we also both had reasons to stop it.
Q:Didn't you think about getting rid of Hoste on the hills?
TB:Not really, the pace was set very high. We were riding at speeds of 50-60 km/h. Also, you don't let yourself get surprised, because you know the attacker is going to stay in front if he gets away. Being that close to the finish, you can't count on teammates bringing everyone back.
Q:Can you still become a better rider?
TB:That is difficult to say when you just won a race. But winning a race like this is great. We raced like it was 50 years ago; it was a long and hard race. Normally, at the Oude Kwaremont the differences aren't that big as they were today. Coming back to the attack of Hoste, I thought that Kroon would join us. I didn't look back but rode one kilometre à bloc and nobody came back.
Q:Will you do better than last year by winning Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix?
TB:Hopefully, the team doesn't play my card. Paris-Roubaix suits me well because it's a race where riders continuously drop off at the back. With good legs you're always riding the finale. Wednesday, maybe I can give a present back to Pippo Pozzato, who was riding really at a fast pace in front of the group. I helped him in Sanremo and he did the same for me today. That makes it even now.
The rest of the team, and especially Serge Baguet were doing all a great job. That's something I did not often see, and I already saw a lot to know how good it was.