After his exploits in this year's Spring Classics, where he achieved an unprecedented run of success, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) is currently in the middle of a well-earned break from competitive cycling. But the Belgian star is already looking ahead to coming back, and is particularly excited about the road world championships in Holland later this year.
It may still be over four months away, but Boonen and his Belgian colleagues embarked on a fact-finding mission in the town of Valkenburg, in the Dutch province of Limburg, last week. And he liked what he saw.
"We explored the course," he told Sporza. "It might be hard because of the the wind and possibly the rain. But I think it is a course for Classics riders. If I am in shape, I can handle it. Another world championship win is something I dream of."
Boonen was crowned world champion in Madrid in 2005 but has has a chequered history in the race since then. Peaking in the Spring for the Classics is his major goal every year, and the difficulty of preparing for another major target in the autumn is considerable. He has missed the last two stagings of the Worlds due to injury and he will be hoping for more luck this time round. Should he make it there in one piece, the issue of whether he or Philippe Gilbert (BMC) will act as leader of the Belgian team will snowball as September draws near. But for now it isn't something that Boonen is giving much thought to.
"Who is leader? It is too early to say. Gilbert and I start at the same level anyway," he said. "We're really all contemporaries. We have ridden together for 15 years and have not made serious mistakes in a world championship."