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Tom Boonen (Quick Step) crashed twice and sat out the final sprint.
Quick Step rider ready to fight, defends Tour of Flanders tactics
Fortunately, in the world of professional cycling, disappointment rarely has time to linger on as the next race is already around the corner. One week after the Tour of Flanders, where Tom Boonen missed out on the victory, the Quick Step rider is fully focused on the 'Hell of the North', taking place next Sunday.
Shrugging off his questionable team tactics in the Ronde, which left him in fourth place and teammate Sylvain Chavanel in second, the three-time winner of Paris-Roubaix now looks forward to the French cobbles and another match with Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek).
"You know that I'm not afraid of Cancellara," Boonen told L'Equipe after Wednesday's Scheldeprijs. "I've always thought that Fabian was not a machine, he's a man like the rest of us who also has his weaknesses. On Sunday, I never thought for one second that the race was over when he attacked. I've known him for 15 years, so I also know his boundaries.
"We've seen it last Sunday, Fabian cannot do the same thing every year, whether that is at the Tour of Flanders or in Paris-Roubaix."
Indeed, although Cancellara powered clear on the Leberg, the other favourites took heart when the Swiss faded on the approach to the Muur van Geraardsbergen. With Chavanel in tow during his solo effort, Cancellara showed that he, too, was not unbeatable. Still, the deployment of two team leaders at Quick Step may have been fatal to the squad in the end.
But Boonen defended his team tactics against this week's criticism, even saying that the choice of attacking while Chavanel was one minute up the road had been his, not his DS's Wilfried Peeters. "It was me who went up to Wilfried's car to tell him I was going to attack (on the Leberg)," Boonen said.
"There were still too many dangerous riders such as Van Avermaet or Boom, that were gaining time on Sylvain. I couldn't just sit there and watch them do it. Anyway, if I had sat back in the pack, I would have been blamed, too. I repeat: On Sunday, I did not commit any mistake, I just did my job!"
Now, all that matters is to take revenge in Roubaix, where Boonen has an historic opportunity. "I've always said that Paris-Roubaix motivated me more this year than Flanders, because I can make history and equal Roger De Vlaeminck's palmarès," said the Belgian, who already won the Queen of the Classics in 2005, 2008 and 2009.
Cancellara, the 2010 winner, not only has to defend last year's crown but also his nickname of 'Spartacus' and favourite number one. Once again, this Sunday, he will face the whole peloton against him, as well as a Quick Step team that is hoping to have learned its lessons.