Tom Boonen is looking to lead the Belgian national team at the upcoming World Championships in Ponferrada, and showed his good form and confidence in the sprints with second place at the end of Friday’s 12th stage of the Vuelta a Espana.
The Omega Pharma-QuickStep sprinter was one of a handful of riders to be ahead of a large crash near the end of the stage in Logrono. The win went to Giant-Shimano’s John Degenkolb, but Boonen put in a strong charge to take second. It was his first sprint placing in a Grand Tour for several years.
“I felt strong," Boonen told Nieuwsblad.be. “If I had been a bit faster, I could have won, I think. But Degenkolb was technically perfect and strong.”
Second place is still not winning, “so I cannot be happy.” It had its good side, though. “It’s fun to see that I can still get really involved in the sprint.” Boonen has good memories of World Championships in Spain, having won in Madrid in 2005. This year’s course is not one for pure sprinters, but for sprinters who can climb – like Boonen and Degenkolb.
National coach Carlo Bomans sees Boonen’s performance as good, but in a guarded way.
“Let's not exaggerate," Bomans said. "A World Championship of 250km is something other than a stage of 160 flat kilometers. But I am happy with what I've seen, especially the way Boonen chose his position. That's different from the last few weeks.” “Plus: it's not that Degenkolb pulled several meters away. But above all it will give him confidence. That is always good.”
2014 has not seen a lot of top results for Boonen, but he can look to two stage wins each at the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Belgium, as well as the title in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. He missed the Tour de France but seems to have found his form and is on an upwards trajectory towards the World Championships in Ponferrada on Sunday September 28.