Boonen to start season at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana

Etixx-QuickStep star to make his return after Abu Dhabi Tour crash

Four months after his bad crash in the Abu Dhabi Tour, Tom Boonen’s return to racing will take place at the renascent Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Spanish website ciclo21.com claimed on Thursday. The five-day Spanish event, last staged in 2008, is due to take place from February 3-7.

Boonen, 35, came down heavily on stage two of the Abu Dhabi Tour in October and was taken away in an ambulance after hitting his head and losing consciousness, with blood coming from his left ear. He suffered a temporal fracture, and was was prevented from flying back home for two weeks. The Belgian revealed last week he was on course for a swift recovery from the crash, although one long-term consequence is a partial loss of hearing.

"I lost part of my hearing and it is permanent. That is annoying but you get used to it," Boonen told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad last week.

According to ciclo21.com, the Classics star will avoid the Tour de San Luis and his traditional early season races in the Middle East in favour of a start closer to home.

Etixx-QuickStep themselves refused to either confirm or deny the reports of Boonen’s 2016 race debut to Cyclingnews. If true, Boonen and his teammates, who are currently training near Calpe in the southern part of the Valencia region, would be able to check out parts of the route for themselves.

Contacted by Cyclingnews, the Volta's race organisation would not be drawn on Boonen’s possible participation. However, they did confirm that Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), Mikel Landa (Team Sky) and Fabio Aru (Astana) were all already down on the startlist.

Most of the important features of the route of the 2015 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana are already known, with the rest of the stages due to be published later this Thursday or Friday. The race starts with a 16-kilometre individual time trial from Benicassim to Oropesa, has its most decisive climb at the ultra-steep Xorret de Cati climb on stage four, and finishes with a circuit race through the streets of the region’s capital, Valencia, on Sunday February 7th.

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