After his last-minute reprieve Tom Boonen (Quickstep) has yet to set this Tour de France alight, and during Wednesday’s fifth stage he endured bad luck and a tough day battling back into contention from two punctures.
"I came back after the first puncture," said the Belgian champion, who was originally excluded from the Tour after his out-of-competition positive test for cocaine, but won his appeal the day before the Grand Départ.
"The moment I reconnect [with the front group], I puncture a second time," he continued. "That was too much bad luck." In what was perhaps a reference to his recent off-the-bike troubles, he added: "But I prefer to be lucky in life and unlucky in sport than the other way around."
As for the stage to Barcelona, on Thursday, Boonen is unsure whether he can prevail on the 6.6% climb that comes just 1500m before the finish. "It might be too steep for me," he said.
Boonen’s manager, Patrick Lefevere, said earlier that he expects his star rider to be in contention for stage wins later in the Tour, in particular if Columbia-HTC maintain their current work rate in trying to set up Mark Cavendish. "I think and hope they will be tired," said Lefevere.
"Tom, as soon as he knew he was coming to the Tour, was prepared mentally to ride," added Lefevere. "The Tour is three weeks. I am sure he will be involved."