By Hedwig Kröner in Varese, Italy
Former World Champion Tom Boonen was rather unhappy with how the elite men's UCI road World Championship road race went for him, and his team. While he was the designated leader for the Belgian squad, the attacks of his teammates in the final lap of the event annihilated his chances of the race coming down to a sprint.
"We had an agreement in the team. I had good legs for a sprint. If it would have ended in a sprint, I stood a 90 percent (chance) of winning. I didn't fear those last few climbs," he said after the finish.
With one lap to go, everything was still possible for Boonen as he was leading a second chase group about 30 seconds behind a move including his teammate Greg Van Avermaet, Alessandro Ballan, Matti Breschel, Joaquin Rodriguez and Fabian Wegmann. "Van Avermaet's move [with 21 km to go - ed.] was good, but when Nuyens and Van Goolen went for it [on the penultimate climb shortly afterwards - ed.], they broke our agreement. Now, that's not how you're going to win a race! They should have stayed with me. We talked about all of this before the race, and then they attack!"
Nuyens, who finished ninth after making a strong showing in the winning breakaway, had a different view of how those last kilometres unfolded. "Boonen, with four and a half laps to go, told us that he was feeling good. And then, with one and a half laps to go, I heard him say on the radio 'I can't win anymore.' I was surprised, but we quickly re-organised the team," he stated.
In any case, the Belgian team ended up without a medal even though they had been counted on as one of the strongest teams. "Our collective failed," said Boonen. "It wasn't necessary to jump away in those breakaways, only Van Goolen's move would have been enough. From what experience tells me, there are people who have too much ambition."
The Quick Step leader was more than disappointed. "It's a lost opportunity, as I already know that I won't go to Mendrisio in 2009. I can only console myself with Paris-Tours now, but it's not the same as becoming World Champion."