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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Winner Tom Boonen (Belgium)
The morning after the likeable rascal from Balen has delivered the goods, the Belgian written press...
The morning after the likeable rascal from Balen has delivered the goods, the Belgian written press is using well picked superlatives to describe the population's admiration for Tom Boonen's triumph.
'With an impressive display of power and superiority Tom has given cycling fans a thrilling World Championships finale,' it read. 'The status of World Star will be accentuated by the Rainbow Jersey he will be wearing next season. But Tom wouldn't be Tom if he didn't have most praise for his hard working team.'
"I had the extraordinary help of a magnificent Belgian team," Boonen repeated in the Belgian Newspapers. "We formed a tight knit block from the moment we gathered in Zaventem last Thursday. We were all dressed in te same national polo shirt and that accentuated our unity. It's been a long time since we worked together like this. I think that every person in Belgium can be proud of this team today. We really communicated well; everybody listened; everyone did their job and more.
"Wilfried Cretskens and Marc Wauters didn't leave my side, not one meter, I didn't feel a whisper of wind that whole 270 kilometres, that's how they protected me. I have seen those guys do things today that I can't. They worked so hard. Devolder and Gilbert executed what was asked of them: to go in an attack without taking the lead. And when they had played their role perfectly Leukemans and Nuyens did their thing. After that Wauters brought me to the front at the right moment, and Mario Aerts but especially Peter Van Petegem saw to it that we got to the break in time in the last 600 metres. It couldn't be more perfect, and I can't stress that enough.
"I also want to point out that I never doubted the strength of the team. I was never afraid. I told my team mates: the last lap we'll ride à bloc [flat out - ed.], we'll take control of the race.
Boonen, surprisingly, didn't even notice the course the race taking. "I never rode my race with other competitors in mind. I didn't even know that Bettini attacked," he said. "And I never focused on Petacchi in this race. The past has thought me that most of the time you end up being the loser when you ride your race with an eye on another rider. Definitely so in the sprint. I rode my own race, my own sprint. Keep cool, believe in yourself and the team, that's my race-attitude.
"So Bettini attacked on that last climb, Nuyens and Leukemans anticipated that perfectly. The last three kilometres Nick and Bjorn took gas back and I asked Peter to give it full blast. Before the last turn I was comfortable, saw that everything was okay. My QuickStep team mate Guido Trenti was able to come underneath still, but I didn't need his 'help' anymore. I nestled myself in Alejandro Valverde's wheel, he started sprinting with 300 metres to go. Hundred metres before the finish line I picked my moment."
There was quite a bit of criticism on the composition of the National Coach José De Cauwer after the selection for the World's was finally made. But Boonen was not the one to talk negatively about the team. He proved that it was the right thing to trust De Cauwer's decision.
"I didn't get distracted by the bickering beforehand. I always said it was a great team. And as far as my form was concerned: I felt what I had to feel. And besides, I don't care what other people say. It is sometimes hard not to let things like that get to you, but I was able to fend it off. I didn't have to win anything in the Vuelta. I was there to work on my form, just like I did during the Tour of Switzerland to be ready for the Tour de France. I knew what was important to reach my goal and I had no problem ignoring what discussion the fans and press got involved in.
"I dreamt about winning Flanders and Roubaix, and I was able to do just that. My next dream was taking the Green Jersey in the Tour, and I wore it thanks to the two stage wins there; then that crash took me out. When I had to leave the Tour in Briançon I went through the lowest point of what otherwise had been an awesome season, and I only thought of one thing: to be here in Madrid, at the gates of the Real stadium on September the 25th, I just wanted to become World Champion after that.
"It became my life goal, it was a passion, much more than just a dream. It still has to hit home really; but this is definitely the nicest sprint victory in my career. This one sticks out head and shoulders above the rest."
Tom Boonen remains cheeky as ever; with a big grin on his face he answered the question on how his success story is to continue; being 24 and having won such big races.
"Haha, I think they might have to invent a new category for me hey," he laughed. "Although, I'm still missing an Olympic title! Already last year they said that it would be hard to have a better season. But I realise that it will be even harder next season. Everyone doubted me the last weeks, I was even happy that the Belgian press wrote me off in the end. You have to be strong not to let that get to you. But I'm only looking towards the future, I'm not interested in the past." Tom Boonen doesn't brag, he's mentally strong and will keep both feet on the ground he says. "Okay, I'll be wearing the rainbow jersey now, but I'll be the same guy I was before and I'll still want to win as badly as I did before. This title only gives me more motivation. I think it's better to be world champion at 24 then never! So don't think something bad has happened to me today, this is super-positive!"
Courtesy of Sabine Sunderland