"There will be other sprints," said Belgian Tom Boonen after taking stage 3 of the Tour of Qatar on Tuesday. For the second day in a row he put one over on his key rival, Italian Alessandro Petacchi (Milram), but modestly noted that the season is long and Ale-Jet will have his turn to win. Nevertheless, the count between the two sprinters for the 2007 season is Boonen 2 to Petacchi 0.
"This time in Qatar I beat Petacchi, but he is not at his best. In the last eight months he has raced very little due to his mishaps," continued the Belgian to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"... At three kilometres to go I was in 50th position; [Matteo] Tosatto did a number to take me up front. And thanks to [Kevin] Van Impe, always in the finale, I avoided crashes. [Gert] Steegmans, who was an important acquisition for the train, then the last man in my train, the one I prefer, [Steven] De Jongh. Yes, I have a very strong team."
The Belgian desperately wants to diversify his palmarès by adding a Milan-Sanremo victory. He has become the virtual king of Belgium by taking two editions of the Tour of Flanders, but desires to win La Classicissima. "[These] wins give good morale to me and the team. Regarding Sanremo, it is like I have been trying to win it for ten years. In reality it has only been two seasons; eighth and forth," continued the 26 year-old regarding his 2005 and 2006 placings. "The Cipressa and Poggio are not a problem, neither is the sprint. If I was to take it on the third attempt it would be an achievement."
Boonen will have to manage the relationship with his Italian teammate, current World Champion and 2003 winner of Sanremo, Paolo Bettini. But it could work in the duo's favour, it is will known that Bettini, nearing the end of his career, wants to add Flanders to his palmarès and may help his teammate get the Sanremo win to ensure success in the north.
"We will play all of our cards," said Boonen regarding the team tactics. "It is true, I have won Flanders two times but the race is not my property. If the race goes well for Bettini, then I will help him to win."