Boonen starts season without feeling

The double impact from the news in the last week has had its toll on the Quick-Step riders,...

The double impact from the news in the last week has had its toll on the Quick-Step riders, including 2005 World Champion Tom Boonen. The team's manager Patrick Lefevere was accused doping-related activities on Tuesday and then on Wednesday, Johan Museeuw confessed to not being "100 per cent honest," or that he used drugs in his final year as a professional with Quick-Step.

Boonen has arrived in the Middle East to start his 2007 season in the Tour of Qatar, a race he dominated last year. He hopes to do the same this year but if he does it will be without feeling, as he is distracted by the recent events.

"I am departing for Qatar but it is without the soul of a rider," confessed the 26 year-old Belgian star to La Gazzetta dello Sport's Ciro Scognamiglio. "I feel that I have come [to Qatar] lacking stimulus and motivation. I am shocked and mortified."

As reported yesterday, More on Het Laatste Nieuws' articles - why now?, there is a sense of political payback for the Belgian team manager, and Boonen does not disagree. "I don't think that it is a coincidence," he continued. "I think that it is a political objective against Patrick via accusations against cycling. But do they know that they are playing with the jobs of 60 people?

"But I don't believe this. It is bullshit. I read the anonymous testimony, with many inaccuracies and inconsistencies."

Museeuw and Boonen raced side by side in 2003 and 2004 and shared many glories, so there are feelings towards the retired Belgian cycling legend. Wednesday's confession by Lion of Flanders left an impact on the younger champion, one of hope and confusion.

"I think that he did well to confess," Boonen continued. "It is the first pass for rehabilitation. But it is not enough to cast a shadow over his entire career, since they were referring to only one year and, practically, his last year."

Boonen will start 2007, with or without feeling, this Sunday, January 28, in the Tour of Qatar. The race, where he will face sprinting rival Alessandro Petacchi, runs through February 2.

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