Tom Boonen is not at his best at the start of Tirreno-Adriatico. The Quick Step sprinter revealed on Wednesday that he had been seriously ill just days before the 'race between the two seas', and that he came to the Italian stage race feeling somewhat diminished - which could explain why his team finished only 19th in the opening team time trial in Marina di Carrara.
"I've been seriously ill in the past few days," Boonen told Belgian newspapers. "On Sunday, I suddenly came down with a flu. I had fever, 39° Celsius. That was a scare."
The Belgian said that his participation in the race had been in jeopardy. "There were doubts, but when the fever got better on Monday, I knew I was going to be OK."
Instead of travelling to Italy on Monday as planned, Boonen finally made the journey one day later. "It will be harder now, but if I get through the next few days alright, then the worst will be behind me. There's no panic for the Classics. I'm on schedule to test myself in Tirreno," the top sprinter and Classics specialist added.
Nevertheless, with Milan-San Remo only ten days away, he conceded to La Dernière Heure that it was "not heartening" considering that the Primavera is his first real objective this season.
With Boonen not at his best, Quickstep may opt to work for Francesco Chicci in the second stage of Tirreno on Thursday, which looks suited for a bunch sprint finish. Against rivals such as Tyler Farrar and world champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo), Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) and 2010 Milan-San Remo winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank) - André Greipel having abandoned - the first fast finish of this year's Tirreno will be highly contested.