With the 89th Ronde Van Vlaanderen now complete, the heir-apparent to Johan Museeuw can now crowned the new Lion of Flanders. Today in Meerbeke, 24 year-old Tom Boonen, who first showed his talent for the Spring Classics three years ago after finishing third at the 2002 Paris-Roubaix, rode an incredible, powerful and faultless Flanders, soloing home to take the biggest win of his career and leaving the rest of the favourites by the roadside.
Placing himself in a select group of six riders with just over 30 kilometres to go that included Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto) and Erik Zabel (T-Mobile), Boonen not once feared these pre-race favourites who were with him. Instead, the Belgian wunderkind countered an attack by Van Petegem with such force that lef the others wondering who would take second.
Riding the preceeding cobbled climbs such as the Oude Kwaremont, Koppenberg and Valkenberg as if they were flat, Boonen had more than enough energy to ride the nine kilometres that remained on his own and with pure power crossing the line half a minute ahead of Klier, who rode a fantastic Ronde, and Van Petegem, who may have been feeling the effects of his sickness during the week.
"This is crazy!", cried Boonen right after the finish line. The 24 year-old was incredibly happy with his victory, for which he had a calculated plan on his mind. "I had this scenario in my head, and wanted to attack à la Edwig Van Hooydonck on the Bosberg, but that didn't work. With nine kilometres to go, it was the ideal moment to go."
Boonen decided to attack because there was another sprinter in the front group in the form of Erik Zabel. "I knew I couldn't go to the finish line with the fast man Zabel still with us; he was so strong today," Boonen said. "Also because Klier and Van Petegem were with me, they would have killed me in the final kilometres. So I decided to take my chances and attacked. I don't quite realize what's happened yet, I will need some more time for it to sink in!"
In any case, Boonen feels ready for a double Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. "Why not? That's actually possible seeing the way I'm riding at the moment. In fact, Paris-Roubaix suits me even better than the Ronde!"