Boonen: I've the weapons to win Paris-Roubaix but Flanders will be difficult

Veteran plays down chances of fourth win in Flanders but targets Gent-Wevelgem

After an impressive ride from the Quick-Step Floors team in E3 Harelbeke on Friday, Tom Boonen looked ahead to his final three races – Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

The 36-year-old wants to sprint for the victory in Gent-Wevelgem. Meanwhile, he played down his chances for a record-breaking fourth win in the Tour of Flanders next week. Boonen feels that his physical characteristics provide him with better weapons to get that record-breaking fifth win at Paris-Roubaix in two weeks time.

At the E3 Harelbeke, teammate Philippe Gilbert sprinted for the victory but was beaten by Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). Boonen sprinted to an eighth place.

"We rode according to our plan. I wasn't testing myself on the Taaienberg. [...] We were in the ideal position to do something but I figured that it was useless to go flat out to the top. I rode a good pace without acting crazy," Boonen said after freshening up in the Quick-Step Floors team bus.

He sat down at the entrance, well-wrapped up to protect himself against the cold. "We said before the race that we would try straight after the Taaienberg to get some men up the road, those would be the leaders, being Phil or myself. My first attack was marked by Daniel Oss but he worked along. Then someone came back. Then Phil attacked and they were gone. It proved to be the right tactic to get someone in front as soon as possible and make the others chase us down. It was very hectic, nervous and chaos for everybody. It was hard to organise something out there. I'm pleased with the result we got here. I think Phil will be satisfied too. He rode a good sprint but just got beaten."

When asked about his plans for Gent-Wevelgem, Boonen wasn't planning to just clock in some miles in order to get ready for the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. "I'd love to sprint along for the victory in Gent-Wevelgem," Boonen said, smilingly.

A fourth win in Wevelgem would be record-breaking too. "Today was good too. I actually won the sprint of the main chase group. Those two men attacked in the last bit but behind them it was a sprint. So, I'm pleased with my form but I'm ok if it would improve a bit more by next week, or the week after that. The races become easier, I mean, they suit me better. Flanders will become difficult though. I'm no longer the man to go along up the final ascent of the Paterberg, but for Roubaix it'll be alright. I realise that it'll be difficult. With growing older, I've not become less explosive on those climbs. Every year it's become a bit harder. I can follow those men if it matters but the final time up the Paterberg will become difficult, but not impossible. I'll certainly try but I'm not stupid. I realise that my chances in Flanders are smaller than in Paris-Roubaix," Boonen said.

When asked about how the team rode at the E3 Harelbeke, Boonen was pleased. "It was good. There's not much to say about it. Everybody did what was expected from him. We had a small setback with the crash on the left-hand corner [ed. Jack Bauer and Nikki Terpstra crashed just before Taaienberg]. Then Stybar broke his wheel due to a stupid maneuver from Degenkolb. We ran into a few problems but nothing that was impossible to overcome. I think we're here at the finish as one of the teams with the least damage. There was - per usual in Harelbeke - a lot going on today," Boonen said. Clearly the veteran Belgian rider is confident and hoping to clinch the victory in at least one of his final races.

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