By Gregor Brown in Kuurne
Quick Step's Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini were very enthusiastic about their trip to the Tour of California last month when they spoke with Cyclingnews on the eve of the classics season. Despite some bad weather on the US's west coast and having to deal with jet lag from a 10 hour flight, the duo remained positive about the early season trip.
"The weather was not so good, but we were there a week before and the weather was superb and we got a lot of good training rides in," noted 27 year-old Boonen. "The race is well organised and it is something that I think will grow in the future."
Many of the Europeans suffered jet lag during the long flight over the Atlantic. However, the race's length and a lack of sufficiently competitive alternatives made it worth the days needed to recover after travelling.
"It is very hard to find a race in Europe with that amount of good racers and that amount of kilometres so early in the year," continued Boonen. He was even impressed with the level of domestic teams that took part in the eight-day race. "They were good. Racing in the States, everybody thinks it is easy, but it's not. I did my first races there in 1999, and even then it was very hard. It is not always that the European races are better than the US races, otherwise we would not have had an American win the Tour seven times – he wasn't that bad," added Boonen with a smile.
'Tommeke' also had a chance to meet 'The Terminator' during his stint in the Golden State. "I know he is the Governor of California. He did not know who was I was, but I did not ask him at any rate," said Boonen of California's Governor, former actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Boonen joked with his team-mate, World Champion Paolo Bettini, about their trip to the US and the little bit of trouble they had recovering from jet lag. Nevertheless, Bettini confirmed the overall positive experience. "For me it was the second participation," said the 33 year-old Italian. "It is a good tour – organised well."
Still, he was not impressed with the final 150-kilometre stage, that included the climb to Millcreek Summit. "This year, the last stage was not favoured [by the riders]. It was not necessary that we had to do that climb, because for a tour of eight days in February it is not needed to do a climb of 1500 metres, and then with the possibly of raining on that given descent. And, even in America, there was a tunnel without lights!"
Final stage aside, the duo were happy with the warm-up event and are ready to put the kilometres in their legs to good use as the Spring Classics season gets underway.