Tom Boonen is still very disappointed not to be part of this year's Tour de France. The Belgian had to skip the event due to tendonitis in his knee, but was at the start of stage one in Rotterdam to greet his teammates before the stage to Brussels in Belgium.
"It's a bit strange to be here with the other guys, who are getting ready for the stage," he told Cyclingnews.
"I didn't think it was going to be a problem being here, but it actually is. When you're at home, it is not so difficult because you're busy doing other things. But once you come here, and you see all your teammates prepare for the start... I didn't think it would be that difficult."
After the start of the stage, Boonen headed to Meise, ten kilometres away from the finish in Brussels, to watch the race at the Eddy Merckx factory. The stage route passes the five-time Tour de France winner's home to celebrate Merckx's 65th birthday.
"The first stage of the Tour is always difficult," Boonen said of the stage. "Luckily, today, the weather is great, and there is not going to be a lot of wind after all. But it'll be nervous, even if the roads that they take are going to wider than those that were used at the Giro."
Long finishing straight suits Farrar
Boonen's favourite for the day's victory is Garmin-Transitions' Tyler Farrar. He thinks the American may be best suited to the Tour's longest finishing straight, which is also slightly uphill.
"I never did a good sprint on that finish, never! I finished second once, but it is a very hard sprint because you see the line with 900 metres to go. You have to wait a long time before starting the sprint. But as I could see yesterday at the prologue, Farrar is doing really well. He has increased his form in the last 2-3 months and the Tour is his great objective, so I think he's the big favourite today."
Boonen is still off the bike, and is only allowed to do some swimming to keep in shape. "I still have some pain in my knee, and I can't do any training. I swim a lot, as this is a sport I'm actually allowed to do. But I can't run and I can't ride a bike."
Boonen is disappointed to miss the Tour de France and especially stage three that includes seven sections of cobbles sections and ends at the entrance of the Arenberg Forest on Tuesday. The three-time winner of Paris-Roubaix would have loved to race on the famous pave sectors during the Tour. However he believes the racing on the cobbles at the Tour de France will be different to racing on them at Paris-Roubaix.
"Paris-Roubaix and a Tour de France stage on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix are two different things," he commented. "The greatest obstacle that day will be the possibility of crashing, not the pave themselves. The finale will be very different with 120 riders coming in together rather than just 50. It will be difficult."
"Cancellara is on great form. It's the perfect stage for him, but I'm sure that the great sprinters like Farrar and Cavendish will go for a bunch finish there, too."
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