The build-up from triple Tour of Flanders winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) received a new knock on Sunday afternoon during Gent-Wevelgem. The Belgian champion crashed at high speed in the peloton when there were just under 70 kilometres left to race and hurt his right knee, He eventually abandoned the race, while rival Peter Sagan (Cannondale) went on to win the Belgian spring classic. With both Sagan and Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack) in top form it seems highly unlikely that Boonen will be able to rack up a fourth win in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Boonen will probably start in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde to get more kilometres done ahead of the upcoming big races.
Tom Boonen didn’t talk with the media after his crash. At the team bus after the race team director Wilfried Peeters also offered little insights on the situation of the Belgian star. Peeters didn’t want to go into details about the injury and didn’t say how Boonen reacted.
“I’m not a doctor. How can I make a diagnosis after half an hour? We will communicate about it. It’s not fun that’s for sure,” a slightly agitated Peeters said after the race at the team bus. “While moving up in the group somebody jumps on the bike path and he touches Boonen’s front wheel. It’s a stupid crash at a bad moment. We tried to get him back on the bike but by then it was already over. We have to look at it tomorrow and then we’ll see.”
Having an injured team leader one week ahead of the Tour of Flanders and two weeks ahead of Paris-Roubaix blows the team’s ambition for these cycling monuments. After a troubled build-up due to an infection in Boonen’s arm it became clear that Boonen would need every race to get ready for his Spring classics. The past two semi-classics E3-Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem came too early to repeat last year’s wins, and now it seems like the team is heading for a disastrous spring classics season.
“Last year we won both races and now we didn’t. That’s the way it is. We twice tried to play our role, with Chavanel – ok, Stijn Vandenbergh is not the appointed man – but also for Cavendish. The circumstances decided differently. It’s the reality we’re facing. There’s nothing we can do about it. Hopefully we can continue Tom’s build-up for the Ronde van Vlaanderen,” Peeters said.
After having Boonen examined on Sunday evening or Monday the team deliberate on having him start at the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, a stage race in Belgium from Tuesday to Thursday. Boonen was not supposed to start there but Peeters didn’t excluded the option on Sunday afternoon.
“He’s on the list. I always put Tom on the list of reserves. All options are still open. We’ll decide tomorrow.”
Team manager Patrick Lefevre told on Sporza that it was hard to be happy with how the team performed. “It’s hard. We probably had eight of our riders in the front group when the peloton split. Apparently Murphy['s luck] is travelling with Tom this year. It’s hard to judge on him this way. I don’t think he’s bad looking at what he did on Friday [during the E3 Harelbeke]. Today nothing had happened by the time he crashed. I don’t know much details either as I can’t reach much people from the team; they don’t pick up their phones. A soigneur told me it was mainly his knee,” Lefevre said on Sporza.