After an historic season in which he claimed a Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix double, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma QuickStep) is hoping to repeat the achievement in 2013. The Classics rider, 32, picked up 15 wins last year but enjoyed a purple patch of form in the spring classics, with wins in E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Flanders and Roubaix.
Speaking at the press launch of Omega Pharma’s 2013 team, Boonen stressed that it would be virtually impossible to improve on last year’s achievements but that he would at least try and replicate them.
Perhaps the biggest two obstacles in Boonen's way could come in the form of Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara. Sagan was a constant threat in the spring but lacked the experience to contest in the finale of a number of races. Often his own aggression, with early attacks, would be his undoing. However Boonen believes that the Liquigas leader is a special talent and could come away with a Monument this year.
“Peter is one of the best talents I’ve seen in my career,” Boonen told Cyclingnews.
“He’s the best rider I’ve seen come through the ranks in my time. He is only 22 now so he has a lot of years to come and for the classics experience is a key factor. Every year he’ll ride them and get stronger and smarter.”
Sagan had been scouted by Omega Pharma-QuickStep management earlier in his career but was eventually passed over. He later signed for the Liquigas team, where he has developed into one of the best riders in the peloton.
“Liquigas is probably the best Italian team and they also have a lot of heritage in cycling. Maybe if he’d ridden for us he would have had more influence from the guys who are trying to push him in the Classics direction. Maybe the influence is a little bit less at Liquigas but they have the guys in their ranks to guide him through the Classics. He’s in a pretty good team. It’s possible that he could win a Classic this spring. He was almost there in 2012. He’s a big weapon.”
As for Cancellara, the picture is somewhat different. The Swiss rider has been plagued by bad luck and injuries in the last 12 months and in 2011, despite impressive form, came away from the spring without a victory.
“He’ll be there this year,” warned Boonen.
“I’m 100 percent sure that he’ll have a good season. If he has a bit more luck… it’s me and Fabian, the same names as always. Fabian and me, we’ve been racing against each other since we were juniors together.”
Boonen also discussed the chances of perennial underachiever Filippo Pozzato. The Italian was handed a three-month ban for working with the controversial and banned, Dr Michele Ferrari but returns to racing later this month in the colours of Lampre-Merida.
“If Pozzato really does the training that he’s telling everyone about then he’s going to be really good. He’s an incredible talent and a good guy as well. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. He’s a really good rider but sometimes he misses a break. But he’s beaten me a few times in some nice races too.”