Etixx-QuickStep has confirmed that Tom Boonen will ride Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs race despite injuring his wrist and hand in a crash during the Tour of Flanders. Boonen will have a support role and will test his legs before Paris-Roubaix, as Etixx-QuickStep target victory with sprinter Marcel Kittel.
Boonen crashed with Milan-San Remo winner Arnaud Demare (FDJ) with 150km left to race in the Tour of Flanders. He raced in pain and struggled to be a factor after Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) went on the offensive with Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo). Boonen and his Etixx-Quickstep teammates missed the move and were unable to stay with Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) when he set off in pursuit of Sagan. Zdenek Stybar was Etixx-QuickStep’s best finisher in ninth place, with Boonen finishing 15th after sacrificing his own chances for the good of the team.
A medical check-up confirmed that Boonen suffered bruising to his wrist and arm in the crash but did not suffer any more serious damage, allowing him to ride Scheldeprijs – which passes close to his home town of Mol, east of Antwerp.
“It wasn’t much more than bruising to his finger an thumb and fortunately it didn’t involve the bone. We’re not expecting any further complication and so he can race on Wednesday,” Etixx-QuickStep team doctor Yvan Van Mol told Het Nieuwsblad.
A sprint at Scheldeprijs
Boonen won Scheldeprijs in 2004 and 2006 when he was at the peak of his sprinting prowess. This year he will ride in support of Kittel, who earned the role of team leader by winning the hectic sprint on stage 3a of the Three Days of De Panne. Also in the Etixx-QuickStep line-up are neo-pro Davide Martinelli, Maximiliano Richeze, Fabio Sabatini, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Lukasz Wisniowski.
Their rivals for the expected sprint finish include 2015 winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18), Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and Andrea Guardini (Astana).
Boonen will use the 207 kilometres of flat racing to test his legs and prepare for Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. He hopes his current form is more suited to the flat road and pavé of northern France than the climbs of Flanders. He has won Paris-Roubaix four times and another victory would make him the only rider to ever win five times.
“It’s a completely different race," Boonen said, quickly moving on from the disappointment of the Tour of Flanders and confident that Etixx-QuickStep can win one of the big spring Classics.
"We don’t have to race differently. We’ve got to keep doing what we do. We’re doing it well. One day an apple will fall off the tree and if it doesn’t happen then that’s that, at least we tried. It’s a race where team tactics can play out the most, our team especially. We’re not worried.”