Tom Boonen is confident he can recover from the serious head injury he suffered at the Abu Dhabi Tour and target the 2016 spring Classics. However, he has yet to get the green light to race again and so will only be a spectator at his Boonen and Friends charity cyclo-cross race in Belgium on Saturday.
Boonen was diagnosed with a temporal bone fracture on the lower side of his head after crashing at speed during stage 2 of the end-of-season race. He was forced to stay in hospital in Abu Dhabi for several days, with doctors suggesting he could need up to six months off the bike. Boonen is convinced he is making a rapid recovery and intends to begin serious training when he joins up with his Etixx-QuickStep teammates in Denia, Spain, in December.
"Things are going well after my crash. When I came back home from Abu Dhabi I was tired and in pain, but day by day I began feeling better and now everything is heading into the right direction,” Boonen said during a press conference to present the Boonen and Friends event.
“It's a difficult fracture, but it's healing well, even if I can't compare it with any of the other fractures I've had. Still, I'm happy, because a few days ago I have finally returned to training – not very intense ones, around three hours long – followed by a couple of days of rest, as the doctors recommended me not to rush things. It's really important to listen to my body and do things right before the new season."
"Immediately after the fall it was said that I would be out for six months. I knew it was an exaggeration, but it was of course a very big crash with serious consequences. It’s totally different than a regular shoulder, leg or knee injury. I have to be patient,” he told Sporza.
With the spring Classics still five months away, Boonen remains optimistic he will be competitive in what could be the final season of his long career.
"It's still a small five months to Paris-Roubaix, so I have plenty of time to prepare. At the moment there are other riders who still haven’t resumed training. I'll be all right," Boonen said.
"First I want to have an acceptable level at the first training camp in December. Then I want a good spring ride. I'm certainly not going to give up hope. On the contrary, I will be pushing to win a Classic. Whether 2016 will be my last season depends what the results are. However, it is the last year of my contract with Team QuickStep. I can't wait for the training camp to be underway. Denia will be perfect to outline my schedule and start focusing on 2016.
"I enjoy cycling and have a lot of fighting spirit," Boonen concluded.
Boonen will not be able to ride at his charity event in his hometown of Mol but revealed that 50 or so professional riders will attend, including new Etixx-Quickstep teammate Marcel Kittel, as well as Andrei Greipel, Michal Kwiatkowski, Jurgen van den Broeck and former cyclo-cross rider Tim Wellens.