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Tom Boonen wins stage 2 of the Tour of Qatar
Belgian turns his attention to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
He and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates have racked up two solid and very successful weeks of racing in the sun. Boonen won two stages at the Tour of Qatar and finished second behind teammate Niki Terpstra. He secured two placing in sprint stages in the Tour of Oman but headed home confident that he is on form ready to face the cobbles and bergs on home roads at next Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
"I'm very satisfied how the two weeks in the Middle East have gone," he told Cyclingnews.
"I've already raced 19 days this season and it's a great way to get ready for the rest of the season. We've almost got a Grand Tour in our legs."
Boonen had a disastrous 2013 season. He spent a week in hospital with a serious infection after injuring his elbow and then crashed out of the Tour of Flanders and was unable to ride Paris-Roubaix. He won a stage at the Tour de Wallonie but a saddle sore in August put an end to his season. He started training for 2014 very early, doing 12 weeks of special gym work and plenty of training on the bike to get his career back on track.
"If you look back at my career, if I had a bad season, it was always due to some injury, not because I wasn't good," he pointed out.
"Last was a stupid series of problems. At the start of training I was going good and then I ended up in the hospital. Then I was trying to catch up and improve but I crashed in the Classics. It was a year to forget."
"I started training very early and now I think my form base is very solid and so there's no need to panic anymore."
Back to Belgium for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Boonen's elbow kept the Belgian media on edge last year, but 12 months on his smile and confidence are back and his worries have been forgotten. His results were reassuring for the millions of Boonen fans in Belgian and the man himself.
"I'm satisfied with how I felt in Qatar and Oman, so overall, I think I can be happy," he told Cyclingnews.
"In the last few years we've always tried to do well at the Tour of Qatar. With Rigoberto Uran in the team for the Tour of Oman it was naturally to go for the overall classification and third place is a good result for him and for us. I tried to contest the sprint stages. It didn’t really work out like in Qatar; we made a few mistakes in the lead outs and they were complicated sprints, but I got a fifth and a third place. That's still good."
Boonen's excellent early season makes him an automatic favourite for next Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race.
He is quietly confident, but has his sights fixed on April and the Ronde van Vlaanderen, rather than the season opener and cobbles shake down.
"It's going to be very different to racing in the sun that's for sure, even if they're forecasting pretty good weather for Belgium at the weekend. Winter hasn't really started and lets hope it stays like that," Boonen said, apparently as pleased with his suntan as his early season form.
"Of course I've always tried to win it, every time I've ridden Omloop. It'd be nice to win it again but it's not a race I 'have' to win to prove myself."
"I think the most important races are a few weeks later but even then, I try to give 100% from the start and if a result comes and if I even manage to win, then I'll be happy. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone anymore and that makes it all more enjoyable and possible."