Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) bounced back to winning ways on Saturday, taking out the victory in the 170 kilometre Heistse Pijl. The Classics star beat Kenny Dehaes (Lotto-Belisol) and Sean De Bie (Leopard Trek) from a breakaway. The win was Boonen’s first this season and marked a successful comeback after an injury- and illness-hit spring campaign.
Boonen suffered a severe bacterial infection in his left elbow in January, and was in hospital for several days. After finally returning to racing, he crashed early in the Tour of Flanders, suffering various injuries, including a broken rib. The Tour of Belgium was only his second race back.
"I’m very happy about the race," Boonen said. "It was a tough race because we made it tough as a team, being all day in front. We made a great effort and really pushed it, and in the end I also won.
"I attacked in the final on the last lap. I chose to attack on the last climb, which was more or less 2km on the cobblestones. I was solo, but in the final kilometer Dehaes was starting to come back to me. So, I waited for him and we went for the sprint. I am happy I was able to get the victory. It's always good when you raise your arms in a race. It's my second Kermesse victory of my life along with GP Zele in 2006. So, it's something special to win another one."
QuickStep were a dominant force throughout the race, placing Boonen in the main 18-man move with Van Keirsbulck, and Kevin De Weert. The move went clear on lap ten (out of 17) with Boonen attacking on the last lap.
"In the final there was a small group of six in the last lap," sport director Wilfried Peeters said.
"Tom attacked on the last climb, but Dehaes came back to him on the descent. Tom went for the sprint and won."
The race marked the team’s 33rd win of the season so far.