By Brecht Decaluwé in Autun
Quickstep's Tom Boonen has had a frustrating Tour. Deprived of stage wins first by Robbie McEwen, then by his own team-mate, then by the yellow jersey himself, Fabian Cancellara, Boonen's lead-out again failed to deliver the Belgian in a good position at the stage four sprint in Joigny. In stage five, the Belgian suffered at the hands of an old enemy - gravity.
With eight climbs to cross, the last of which came 8.5 kilometres to go, Boonen let go of the peloton and struggled in more than a minute down, conceding the jersey to Milram's Erik Zabel. "I've gone full on every day," the former World Champion told Sportwereld. After Thursday's stage he said, "It was not possible for me to go any faster, and I had to let the rest go." Boonen was lucky enough to wind up in a motivated chase group with Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), who crashed and was trying to save his hopes for the overall classification. But when they came into the finish town, Boonen was philosophical about his chances in the points classification. "The green jersey? I'll take it day by day. Perhaps tomorrow there will be a bunch sprint where I can gain some points."
Boonen's green jersey lead was lessened on the cobbled section of the royal roads of Compiègne on Wednesday when the Quickstep train was surprised by an unexpected turn with 500 metres to go. Boonen threw a protesting arm in the air at the finish line, but assured that it was not his team that was to blame.
The Belgian told Cyclingnews, "It wasn't the team's fault. The last kilometres were very chaotic and riders were thrown around in every direction. We tried to do our best to stay in front, but at one point we couldn't move up anymore, then there was a hole we jumped in. Then there was a little corner at 500m that wasn't in the book and that's where it went wrong," Boonen explained.
The other riders avoided the suddenly wide open inside position, knowing the corner was coming up, but the Quickstep train was trapped on the slowest line. "We had to brake completely and got out of position. Where Hushovd went for it we had to brake and that killed us," Boonen lamented.