Boonen began the day determined to focus on stage victory rather than chasing bonus seconds in the two intermediate sprints. Instead, the Belgian champion picked up two seconds at the second sprint to leapfrog Jens Keukeleire at the top of the overall standings but could only manage 4th place in a stage won by Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano).
“It wasn’t my intention to become leader through the intermediate sprints today but we were well placed and we took the opportunity, even if winning the stage was our main preoccupation,” Boonen told La Dernière Heure. “We were chasing down the breakaway a few kilometres before the sprint. We were in the front of the peloton and automatically I took the bonification.”
In the chaos of the finishing sprint, however, Boonen found himself inadvertently impeded by a teammate. “On the last bend, I got shut in by Stijn Vandenbergh while Alessandro Petacchi was coming past,” Boonen said. “I had to go from too far back and I could only finish fourth. But Marcel Kittel is clearly too quick.”
With three stages still to come, Boonen is in contention to become the first Belgian to win the Eneco Tour in its eight-year history. Before Sunday’s finale over the Muur van Geraardsbergen, however, he must tackle the 17.4km time trial at Ardooie.
“With Sylvain Chavanel, Michal Kwiatkowski, Dries Devenyns, Niki Terpstra and myself, we’re got a lot of good time triallists in the team, at least over that kind of distance,” Boonen said. “We should be capable of putting a lot of our riders in the top 15 overall on Saturday afternoon and then we can talk about Sunday. In any case, I’m aiming to be in the top 10 in the time trial."