In the sprint for fifth, Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) again came up short, going from too far out and getting swamped by McEwen and co. to eventually finish ninth. The world champion expressed his despair to Sporza radio right after the finish of today's stage.
"I can't sprint anymore; I'm not going to sprint anymore I think! I really want to wait and see if it comes back in the coming days. I'm not going to mix in the heat of things in the coming stages. Today I was feeling ok; well, actually feeling less than what I have been up till now in the Tour. I saw a sign saying '200m' while I had already started sprinting, again a mistake! I can't believe I did that! Something's seriously wrong.
"I really think I'll have to say a few prayers, because Murphy's law is definitely at work. I know I can win a sprint, but I think the stars are wrong for me right now; I'll have to look at my horoscope I think (laughs) and hope it's better for next week!
"Right now, I really couldn't care less about the green jersey. A few days in the middle of the peloton will do me good and that's what I want to do - and lash out when I actually feel like it, do my own thing. I don't have to do anything. I've been pressured and having to do things way too much this year already. I just want to do what I feel like now."
Team director Wilfried Peeters confirmed that it looks like Boonen has been discouraged by the mistakes made by himself and the team in the sprint. Peeters also thinks that the pressure put on the team's shoulders before and during the first week of the Tour has definitely taken its toll.
"Tom has got the legs to win the Tour of Flanders, but maybe the pressure is getting too much," Peeters said during an interview with Belgian National radio. "Boonen has been wanting to show himself a worthy world champion from the start of the season - he has been riding at the highest level since January. He wants to keep on winning, and this brings a lot of pressure with it. He told me that he is not the kind of man who only sprints for fourth place, although that is needed to take green. He is a winner and when he is passed in the sprint for only a losing spot, he lets go.
"I think that we'll have to expect Boonen in a different stage than a pure sprinter's stage. It's not as silly as you think to go for some points in those. Anyway, we'll look at how things evolve in the coming days. For now, we have to take some much needed rest, enjoy the peace tomorrow and discuss what happened later."
Laurent Jalabert said on Veloclub on Franc 2 that there is no doubt that Boonen can still win the sprint in the Tour's coming stages, and advised him not to despair. "Boonen is a victim of doubt right now. I'm sure if he grounds himself and regains his confidence that he'll be winning again."