Tom Boonen was visibly frustrated after seeing victory slip from his grasp after a mistimed sprint on stage one of the Tour of Oman. The discussions with his Etixx-QuickStep teammates were animated as they dissected the race minutes after crossing the finish line, trying to establish what had gone wrong.
Boonen led the sprint but was forced to concede defeat to Astana's Andrea Guardini, who overhauled him in the last 50 metres after Boonen faded. "I'm disappointed because we did a lot of work in the final, but my feelings are really good," said Boonen at the finish after taking some time to compose his thoughts before he spoke to the media. "We had done good work in the previous five kilometres for the sprint and I was strong."
Boonen and his Etixx-QuickStep team have come to the race brimming with confidence after taking yet another overall victory at the Tour of Qatar with Niki Terpstra last week. The difficult nature of the finish was favourable for Boonen and they amassed on the front in the final kilometres, looking for another early victory. However, the Boonen was forced to go early to avoid getting boxed in on the tight slope towards the finish. The gradient, combined with a headwind, played against Boonen who rued the missed chance at opening his 2015 win tally.
"Today it was an opportunity, especially as the stage was not difficult. In the final 300 meters, I had to go, but it was still too long, with the headwind and two to three per cent slope. If I went 50 yards later, I could win, but then I had everyone in the wheel, I was like a locomotive for them."
There are still a number of opportunities for Boonen, who continues to look in strong form, in the coming days with a lumpy finishes on stages two and stage five. While he would like to notch up a victory before the classics, Boonen is happy to let some of the other teams take the pressure during the stage.
"In Qatar, we were the favourites and each stage we did lots of work and each stage is hard. Today, it wasn't a difficult stage as it was controlled well by Katusha, who worked the whole stage," said Boonen. "In Oman, we do not need to come here as contenders and do the work every day like in Qatar but I want to try my luck a few times in the sprint."