Boonen breaks the bank to take Bici d'Oro

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Milano In a gala presentation in the centre of Milano yesterday...

Double win with '05 Oscar Gazzetta-Bici d'Oro Fausto Coppi

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Milano

In a gala presentation in the centre of Milano yesterday evening, world champion Tom Boonen was awarded the first ever Oscar Gazzetta-Bici d'Oro Fausto Coppi 2005 award.

Cycling's glitterati were assembled in the Sala Montanelli in La Gazetta dello Sport's HQ on via Solferino in the heart of Milano's Brera district. All anxiously awaited Boonen, who arrived late due to Milano's paralysed traffic grid from No-Global protestors. When he finally did arrive, clad in trendy ripped jeans, a elegant grey jacket and a black T-shirt with "Faith" inscribed on gothic letters, Boonen was given a warm welcome by guests of honour present to celebrate the award. On hand were Marina and Faustino Coppi, the children of il Campionissimo Coppi, Boonen's fellow Tour of Flanders winner Fiorenzo Magni and legacy icon of Italian cycling Alfredo Martini. Felice Gimondi, Giuseppe Sarroni, Gianni Bugno and Francesco Moser, all former world champions, were also there to salute Boonen.

Conceived by La Gazzetta dello Sport, Boonen's award came from a special panel made up of all 20 ProTour team managers, the organizers of all three Grand Tours and 17 of cycling's big names: Merckx, Indurain, Hinault, Bugno, Moser and historical figures like Ferdi Kubler and Fiorenzo Magni. Boonen had a total of 80 points, ahead of seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, whose total was 64. For 2005, the Oscar Gazzetta prize combined with the Bici d'Oro Fausto Coppi prize made a double dip of cycling awards that may be one of the most prestigious honours any cyclist can receive.

As he received his award from Faustino Coppi, the son of Italian cycling's all-time great Fausto Coppi, Boonen said: "This prize is the biggest award of my career. It means a lot to me because great riders like Lance Armstrong and Danilo Di Luca have won it before. I hope to honour this award on Saturday with a victory in Sanremo. To win there would give me another major classic win and at 25 years old, it would be something special."

For the actual award, Boonen gets an engraved solid gold plaque with an image of Fausto Coppi that weighs in at 400 grams and is valued at €15,000. But Boonen will likely leave the award behind in Saturday's Milano-Sanremo race, as it might slow him down on the final ascent of the Poggio before Sanremo.

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