Tom Boonen is chasing his second Belgian national road race title in Geel on Sunday and the Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider approaches the event with special motivation. For the first time in his career, the race takes place on roads close to his home in Mol.
“It’s the first time that I’ll race a Belgian championship near my home,” Boonen explained to Sporza. “While I’m out training, everybody is encouraging me, even more than for the Tour of Flanders.”
After a remarkable run of spring form that saw him capture E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Boonen has opted to build his summer around the London 2012 Olympics. To that end, he will forgo the Tour de France, but he stressed that the Belgian championship was more than a mere signpost along his path to London.
“I’ve really made a goal of the Belgian championship,” he said. “People might say, ‘it’s just a Belgian title,’ but I think it’s a very nice prize. I’ve done all I can to be good for it. I’ve been training hard in the last few weeks.”
As April’s Scheldeprijs demonstrates, the hinterland of Antwerp is devoid of the kind of hellingen that are found in west Flanders, but in spite of the flatness of the parcours, Boonen believes the 14.9km circuit is not without its own difficulties.
“It’s not an easy course,” he insisted. “There are a lot of twists and turns in some parts and the wind will play a role. I don’t expect a big group to ride to the finish. Afterwards, nobody will be able to say that it was an easy championship.”
After rediscovering his sprinting legs this season after two years blighted by knee injury, it would be understandable if Boonen were to stake everything on a bunch finish on Sunday. However, the three-time Tour of Flanders winner believes the race could be more complicated than that.
“It would be stupid [to think only of the sprint],” he said. “You can easily attack on the course and with 30 seconds, you’re out of sight.”