Omega Pharma-Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere has warned that 2012 will be a make or break year for Tom Boonen. Although Boonen won Gent-Wevelgem last season, the former world champion has fallen short at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in his injury-plagued past two seasons.
“2012 will be crucial for Boonen,” Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad. “He’s had a two-year stretch full of physical problems, but he still has the athletic ability.”
Lefevere admitted that Boonen has been more beatable on the cobblestones in recent years than in his past, but he is hopeful that his rider will raise his game in 2012.
“Two years ago if you brought him to the finish, he’d get the prize. Since then he’s been beaten a few times and has been more vulnerable,” Lefevere said. “But if Boonen still wants to be a top athlete, I’m convinced that he still can.”
Although Boonen remains under Lefevere’s stewardship for the tenth successive season, there is a new feel to the squad following its merger with Omega Pharma and the arrival of a number of riders from the defunct HTC-Highroad outfit.
Crucially, the new signings mean that the team should not have to rely on Boonen for WorldTour points as heavily as it did in 2011, and he should be freer to pick and choose his races ahead of the classics. A case in point came in late March, when Boonen was asked to forgo the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and focus his energies on Gent-Wevelgem the following day.
“There is also a new wind blowing through the team. He knows that it’s not just about Tom Boonen riding well,” Lefevere said. “We now have Tony Martin, Levi Leipheimer and a reborn Sylvain Chavanel. The latter is an excellent lightning rod.”