Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) continued his build-up to the world championships with victory at Paris-Brussels on Saturday. The Belgian champion proved too quick for Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) and Oscar Freire (Katusha) in the sprint to take his first-ever win in the event.
Boonen’s victory came one week after he triumphed in the inaugural World Ports Classics and suggests that he is returning to form just in time to play a leading role at the Worlds in Valkenburg on September 23.
“I knew that I was in form,” Boonen told La Dernière Heure after his Paris-Brussels win. “I’m not 100 percent yet, but there are still two weeks to Valkenburg. On Wednesday, I’ll ride the GP de Wallonie and next Sunday, I’ll do the world team time trial championships. But this Paris-Brussels victory is pleasing and it shows me that I’ve recovered well from a week of intensive training.”
That intensive training included riding the entire route of the world championships road race on Wednesday afternoon. Boonen previously competed on the Valkenburg circuit in the junior road race at the 1998 Worlds, but he would abandon on a day that saw Ireland’s Mark Scanlon outsprint Filippo Pozzato for the rainbow jersey. Boonen went the full distance on Wednesday.
“I rode it behind a scooter, in a race simulation but at an average of 41kph,” Boonen said. “On the ten laps of the circuit, I went hard up the Cauberg every time, so that I would realise what awaits us in the race.”
Boonen’s return to winning form after his resoundingly successful spring campaign comes just as Philippe Gilbert (BMC) has enjoyed his first victories of the season. After a troubled year, Gilbert has won two stages at the Vuelta a España, and Boonen is confident that the pair can work together in pursuit of the rainbow jersey in Valkenburg.
“We have a very strong team, we’re ready and it would be super to bring back the jersey with us,” Boonen said. “There will be no tactical problems between Philippe and me. I knew what I must do – follow as much as possible until the last lap.”