Belgian coming around at Amgen Tour of California
Tom Boonen showed himself in the sprint on stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California, taking third by a thin margin behind stage winner Peter Sagan and Heinrich Haussler.
"It was another hard stage today in California," Boonen admitted in Livermore. "The team rode great all day. We're super motivated and of course I was hunting for the win and really wanted it, but in the end I'm satisfied with another second. Hats off to Sagan."
The Omega Pharma-Quickstep rider is just returning to competition after his immensely successful Classics campaign, but rather than tuning up for the Tour de France, the 2007 green jersey winner will skip the Grand Tour in July and opt for the Tour of Poland instead. His ultimate goal is an Olympic gold medal in London.
"I still want to do the Tour in the future, but I don't think it's the right race for me to prepare for the Olympics," Boonen told Cyclingnews. "It is also not in the right team. We have a lot of GC guys now and it wouldn't be fair to take somebody's spot just to train a little bit or to try and take one or two sprints. So I think the best solution is to do an alternative program for the Olympics."
Boonen has never competed in the Olympic Games: he did not compete in Athens in 2004, and in 2008 he was coming off winning the green jersey in the previous year's Tour de France and planned to defend it, but he tested positive for cocaine in an out of competition test after the Classics and was excluded from the Quickstep's Tour team.
This year's Olympic road race takes place just six days after the finish of the Tour de France, and with a punishing week of high mountains in the final week of the Tour, many of the sport's top fast men who hope to contend what many expect to be a bunch sprint in London are opting to save their legs, as Boonen has chosen.
"For my kind of rider, I think it will be better, I'm not the kind of guy who gets better in the mountains," he said. Instead, he will race the Tour of Poland in mid-July.
For now, Boonen is enjoying the California sunshine and said he goes better when it's warm. In stage 3 to Livermore he put the team on the front to bring the race to a sprint despite a challenging climb with 15km to go at Patterson Pass.
"I wasn't really feeling that good, but I think it was a nice day to take a little bit of our responsibility. I wanted to try and see how far I got, if I got dropped on the climb then maybe I need a little work, but it's going better day by day. Of course, I'm not on my best level but it's not necessary yet, but every day we have a chance we want to try."