By Ben Atkins
Tom Boonen had a consistent 2007, winning races from January right through to the Tour de France and beyond – finally netting the green points jersey on the way. The Flemish superstar was recently at the Quick Step team's recent Benicassim training camp.
"For me it went okay," says the former World Champion, reflecting on a consistent 2007, "I had a very good year last year and I won my races in the beginning, straight on from the start in the Classics, I had my victories in Belgium." But the big one eluded him, as things didn't go to plan in the quest for a third consecutive Ronde van Vlaanderen. "The only thing: in Flanders I had a crash in the beginning of the race and it was hard to get into the race again. So that was I think the most terrible day of the Spring Classics for me. It was still okay; I mean ___ happens in races like that.
"Roubaix was very good, but we never got into a situation where we could bridge across for the first place in the final. Everybody was just waiting, it was a very very strange race, just like Tour of Flanders with the good weather, it was almost summer, it was 30 degrees. Strange races."
With the Classics over for another year, targets in the summer were also achieved by Boonen and his Quick Step team: "And then the Tour was very good: Green Jersey and two victories [not forgetting teammate Gert Steegmans' victory in Gent, where Boonen took second], so I think it was a successful year for me."
Another year, and another spring comes around, and for a powerful Flemish rider the targets remain constant. "It's always the same." He laughs, "I was in for the Classics, which won't change this year, and then the Tour. Then after the Tour we'll see if there's anything left in the body and maybe go for the Worlds."
Last year's Tour of Qatar – also the first race of Boonen's 2008 season – proved highly successful for him and his team. Boonen himself netted four of the five road stages and Quick Step took the team time trial, while team-mate Wilfried Cretskens took the overall. The team is not tempted to go all out this year to make it five out of five for Boonen, preferring to save something for what will prove to be a punishing early spring schedule.
"This year we'll try to do a little bit less in Qatar and just take it a little bit more easy in the beginning. We go to Qatar, to California, Paris-Nice, so I go to each side of the world. Then five days after Qatar we go back, then six days later we're in San Francisco. Then the Tuesday before Het Volk – that's only three days before Het Volk – we get back in Belgium so I think it will be a little bit of globe travelling."
The arduous travel must surely be one of the negative side effects of the increased globalisation of cycling. "We will be looking a little bit for a good shape, and trying not to be too good, too soon, and reserve everything for Paris-Nice, and then we're going for Sanremo and all the Classics."
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