Boonen says decision to retire will be his alone

'Opening Weekend has never been my main objective'

Tom Boonen has revealed that Etixx-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere had suggested he retire after this year’s Spring Classics during contract negotiations last summer. In an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws published on Friday, however, Boonen said that he would decide for himself when to bring the curtain down on his career.

“The budget was lower, [Mark] Cavendish left for that reason,” Boonen said. “And Patrick wanted me to stop after the Spring. That suited him. But not me. The decision to stop is one I’ll take by myself.”

After penning a one-year contract extension with Etixx-QuickStep in late summer, Boonen’s 2016 campaign was cast into doubt when he suffered a head injury in a crash at the Abu Dhabi Tour in October.

It was initially reported that Boonen’s temporal bone fracture might keep him off the bike for a period of six months, but despite being left with permanent damage to his hearing, the Belgian was able to resume training in November.

“I started training again the very day the doctors said that I could do it, not before. I’m not crazy, or at least, not crazy enough to take risks,” Boonen told Het Laatste Nieuws. “I was advised to work on my strength and to be careful with explosive efforts.”

Boonen missed last year’s Spring Classics after he separated his shoulder in a crash at Paris-Nice. He lines up at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this weekend – the one major cobbled race that he has never won – after a novel early season campaign.

For the first time since 2003, Boonen has not raced in the Middle East in February. His Etixx-QuickStep team was not invited to the Tour of Qatar for disciplinary reasons, and Boonen has instead warmed up for Belgium’s Opening Weekend at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the Volta ao Algarve.

“I gained a lot of time by not travelling there. Valencia and Algarve were good preparation,” Boonen said. “The Opening Weekend in Belgium has never been my principal objective. I’m focused clearly on the Classics, which have always been the most important races for me.”

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