Tom Boonen is fresh off a strong winter of training, healthy for the start of the season for the first time in years, and aiming to become the outright record holder for Paris-Roubaix victories when he seeks his fifth title in April. But even if he wins, the 36-year-old Belgian has decided to retire while he is still on top.
"It started to hit me at the World Championships that I am beginning my final winter. But I had to choose a date to stop, and I preferred to choose a time rather than be forced to stop because it's not the way it used to be," Boonen said, according to Sporza.
Speaking to the press at the Quick-Step Floors team presentation in Kortrijk, Boonen said that even though his career will end soon - in just 88 days - he still has a lot of goals.
"I want to be good after Argentina (the Vuelta a la San Juan)," Boonen said. "For example, I will also try to win the Tour of Flanders again, though the new finale is more explosive, more difficult."
"[Paris-]Roubaix is better. There will be 190 riders on my wheel, but it has always been like that. Also if I win Roubaix, it will have been my last race."
Like Fabian Cancellara before him, Boonen made the decision to retire while he is still in good form. He came to the decision this season after finishing a frustrating second place to Mat Hayman in last year's Paris-Roubaix, and said even though he still feels doubt, he isn't changing his mind.
He said that he has not had too much time to think about his impending retirement, but expects the full realisation to hit at the race on April 9.
"It will be a strange feeling, but hopefully a good feeling. Even if I win, I will have mixed feelings. But I have been a professional for 16 years, and I feel that it is time to do other things."
Boonen is not cruising on his way out of the peloton and says he is in much better form this year compared to one year ago when he had been off the bike for weeks because of a fractured skull - the result of a crash in the Abu Dhabi Tour.
"The tests up to this stage have been quite good. Comparable to my best years," Boonen said. "I am much further along than last year, when for eight weeks I could do nothing. I was then a ghost of myself. It was a miracle that I could start at the beginning of the season.
"Now I have a very good winter behind me. I have been able to prepare without injury and am in good condition," Boonen said. "I have every confidence that I will be able to fight for victories."