Boonen: I could be the leader at Milan-San Remo

Belgian believes he can win if the Pompeiana is removed

Tom Boonen says that he will be the Omega Pharma-QuickStep leader at Milan-San Remo, if the Pompeiana is removed from the race.

"I will start anyway. If the Pompeiana is in, then Milan-San Remo is 99% not for me. Otherwise, I am one of the leaders," he told Het Nieuwsblad.

Boonen is currently using the race as a build-up to his bid for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix a few weeks later. He has taken second and third, but has never won La Primavera. "Maybe I'll get another chance, the last. Because if the Pompeiana is not in it now, they'll be there next year."

The Pompeiana was introduced to this year's race, making it much more of a climber's course. Many sprinters have opted out of San Remo, but that could change after it was reported earlier this month that the climb's inclusion was under threat, due to landslides.

Boonen's teammate, 2009 winner Mark Cavendish, could return to the race and a number of others have suggested they may reconsider their programme. No official statement has been made by the organisers on whether or not the route will stay as planned.

Boonen believes that while many sprinters will not have prepared fully for the event, his current form could help him take victory.

"The organiser must take a final decision as soon as possible. To me it does not change my program, but some riders have their programs adapted to it. Milan-San Remo is not a small course and, a week in advance, it picks who are in shape."

He is not overly hopeful that the course will alter in his favour, saying, "do not tell me that a month is not enough time to clear the way."

Fellow Belgian Philippe Gilbert (BMC) has been training on the climb, which his near his base in Monaco, this winter. Milan-San Remo is to be Gilbert's first big goal of the season, ahead of the Ardennes Classics. He is also not convinced about the possible removal of the Pompeiana and believes it could all be an elaborate ruse to gain more attention.

"I've never seen anything dangerous and the road surface is perfectly passable. I think Milan-San Remo can continue without any problem. It could be a promotional stunt."

Milan-San Remo is set to take place on Sunday, March 23.

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