"A small mistake cost us victory"
Tom Boonen and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates held a rapid de-briefing after losing out to Andre Greipel and Lotto Belisol in the latest round of the lead-out wars at the end of the first stage of the Tour of Oman.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step had been hoping to continue their run of success after dominating at the Tour of Qatar but someone in Boonen's lead-out train moved to the centre of the long finishing straight overlooking the Naseem Garden, leaving the door wide open along the barriers. Lotto-Belisol lead-out men Marcel Sieberg and Jurgen Roelandts did not hesitate, accelerating through the gap, protected from the side wind, to give Greipel a perfect lead-out. The German Gorilla did the rest and comfortably won his fourth sprint of the season.
Boonen took defeat on the chin as he emerged from the tent used by riders to get changed after a day of racing in the sun. He has won and lost far bigger races and stayed philosophical about defeat, even if he was not happy.
"It's not that I'm mad because I lost but that we missed a chance. It's stupid when you do a perfect lead-out and then f**k it up a little bit. The Lotto guys deserved the win today, they did a great job," he explained.
Boonen thought he had finished fourth behind Greipel, Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) and young Italian Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani-CSF). Official results placed him fifth, with Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) also edging past him before the line.
"Fourth, fifth or 15th it doesn't matter, eh?," he said in an English laced with his Flemish twang.
"We had a good lead-out until the last kilometre but then it got a little hectic and we left a little bit too much space on the right side. A small mistake cost us victory. Everybody came over us from the right."
Despite losing, Boonen was not afraid to praise Lotto Belisol because the rival Belgian team did all the chasing of the break of the day, that escaped after just three kilometres.
"Lotto deserved the win. It was an impressive sprint but we made the space for them. We were on the right but then we went to the middle. If we'd stayed right, nobody could have passed us, even if we go 10km an hour slower. They came from the right. Sieberg brought them to the front and then Roelandts accelerated the two of them clear."
Boonen insisted his instant de-briefing of Omega Pharma-Quick Step's sprinting mistake was a good thing.
"It's a good sign. It's a sign we still want to race," he suggested. "If you cross the finish line and say that fourth is okay, it's not good."
Boonen and his teammates know tomorrow's another day, when it comes to sprinting, to winning and losing.
"Always, eh? If it's not another day tomorrow then we have a big problem," he quipped wisely.