Boonen-mania reaches its peak in Belgium in early April, when the Quick.Step star rides his favourite spring classics. On the eve of the 68th Gent-Wevelgem, Boonen spoke to the press at the Holiday Inn, Gent, about his chances in the mid-week classic and plenty more. Jeff Jones was there for Cyclingnews.
After winning the Ronde van Vlaanderen-Paris Roubaix double in 2005, and his second Ronde just a few days ago, World Champion Tom Boonen is in his best form. Winning one of these highly competitive classics is difficult enough, but the 25 year-old already has three, with the prospect of more to come if everything falls his way this week. While Roubaix is at the forefront of his mind, there's also the small matter of Gent-Wevelgem tomorrow, the Wednesday classic that is favoured by sprinters who can handle the wind... and Boonen is certainly one of those.
But there has been much speculation about whether he will race to win, or try and set up one of his other loyal Quick.Step teammates for victory. Although he wins a lot of races, Boonen is not greedy. He has arguably been the strongest rider in every Belgian one day race that he's ridden this season, winning the E3 Prijs again for good measure. And he's already won Gent-Wevelgem in 2004. Does he need this victory? Or will he try to give it to Milan-San Remo winner Filippo Pozzato, who crashed while in the finale last year?
"We'll see," a lean-looking Boonen told the assembled press corps yesterday. "Tomorrow, for me it's one more very important week: three more races [including next Wednesday's Scheldeprijs]. And I don't give any presents. If I'm good tomorrow and I have the legs and I'm recovered well, then I'll try to win the race. But it's not an objective like the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix. It's hard to be 100 percent in Gent-Wevelgem if you did the final in the Tour of Flanders, but I'll try to."