Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has long been public property in Belgium, and his record third victory at the Tour of Flanders at the weekend only heightened the demand. On Tuesday, the hero of the hour held a press conference near his home in Antwerp to reflect on his Ronde triumph and look ahead to his next objective, Paris-Roubaix.
Twice a winner on the old parcours over the Muur and the Bosberg, Boonen took special pride in being the first man to taste success on the new route of the Tour of Flanders. He dealt with the forcing of Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) and Alessandro Ballan (BMC) on the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, and then dispatched the Italian pair in the sprint in Oudenaarde.
“I have to say for me it was really important to win this Tour of Flanders, as it was the first time on the new parcours," Boone said. "For me, it's really a privilege. I am really happy to have won and to have shown I am able to win a different race."
In spite of his elation at opening a new chapter in the rich history of the most celebrated Flemish occasion, Boonen admitted that from an emotional standpoint, his first victory in 2005 was hard to beat.
“I am super happy for me and the team but when I compare this happiness with the happiness for the victory I had the first time, it isn't the same. That was really a great moment and that feeling is something that has never come back.”
With six monuments inscribed in his palmares, Boonen is well used to big wins, and he enjoyed a low-key celebration with his family on Sunday night.
“On Sunday evening it was a normal evening at home. I arrived at home, drank a good glass of wine with my family and that was all. I went to bed immediately. I was really tired,” he said. “On Monday, I didn't really have a lot of time to enjoy my victory. It's unbelievable.”
Boonen’s thoughts now turn to Paris-Roubaix, and he revealed that he had ridden for two hours on both Monday and Tuesday to keep his legs turning over ahead of the Hell of the North. With three victories in the race to his name already, Boonen can equal the record tally of Roger de Vlaeminck, Mr. Paris-Roubaix himself, on Sunday.
“In cycling you have to turn the page immediately, and next weekend is Paris-Roubaix,” he said. "I am still really motivated. Mentally I have no problem. I work a lot to be competitive at this period of the season so I really want to try to do my best even on Sunday and fight for the victory. I don't know if I will make the recon or not on Friday. The parcours is still the same and I have pretty good experience with it.”
Before that, Boonen lines up at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday. Although he has won the race twice, Francesco Chicchi is slated to lead the Omega Pharma-QuickStep challenge this time around.
"Tomorrow I will try to work for other guys on the team. Francesco Chicchi, for example, can have his chance,” he said. “For the rest of the week, starting tomorrow evening, I will start thinking about Paris-Roubaix. This year seems to be the year of the record, but Paris-Roubaix is really a difficult race, so anything can happen. We will see. There are a lot of competitors, Pozzato and Ballan. They showed they are in good condition."