Boonen: "The strongest man won"

By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix Under controversial circumstances, defending champion Tom Boonen...

By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix

Under controversial circumstances, defending champion Tom Boonen finished on the podium at the 2006 Paris-Roubaix. However, in his typically honest manner, he said at the post-race press conference: "If you would make a ranking of the strongest men, I would be fifth."

Cyclingnews: How is it to finish second this way [after three riders who finished before the world champion were disqualified - ed]?

Tom Boonen: "It's not a nice way and I don't agree with the decision the officials took. When the train was passing, it was up to the officials to make us stop. I finished fifth, not second. But that's the way it is now."

CN: How did you enjoy standing there when the gates were shut?

TB: "Normally you don't have the chance to look around like that. The birds were flying, the sun was shining and a train passed us, it was beautiful. Then the gates opened and we started off racing again." (wry smile)

CN: Was it not possible for you to react when the decisive escape got away?

TB: It was Gusev who attacked at the left side of the road. I was at the other side and wanted to cross over. At that moment Flecha passed me and I had to brake, avoiding a fall. That moment, I cracked."

CN: After Arenberg forest, you had no more teammates left - what happened?

TB: "This week, I told my teammates that I would enter the forest as first rider. I did, and after a while I dropped back to third position to control the situation. Having no teammates from that moment on didn't bother me at all. Everything just happened; it didn't have an influence on the result, as I wouldn't be a minute faster."

CN: Is Fabian Cancellara a deserving winner for you?

TB: "He was the strongest man in the race today. Other strong men were Flecha and Hincapie. If you would make a ranking of the strongest men, I would be fifth. So my result was alright."

CN: How strong was Tom Boonen today, then?

TB: "Certainly not as strong as in the Tour of Flanders. Maybe if everything would've gone right for me, I could've won. With a half of a percent extra, I could've joined the escape. But I just didn't have the legs to pass Van Petegem and Flecha.

"If you had asked me in January if I would agree with some stages wins in Qatar and Paris-Nice, a fourth place in Milano-Sanremo, a win in the E3-Harelbeke and Tour of Flanders plus a second spot in Paris-Roubaix... I would definitely say yes to that." (smiles)

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