Tom Boonen (Quick Step) finished his truncated and often difficult 2010 season at the Putte-Kappellen race on Tuesday and admitted that he was glad to draw a line under an injury-strewn year.
“Half of me wants to forget it as quickly as possible,” he told Het Nieuwsblad after completing the race that marks the end of the Belgian season.
Boonen was afflicted by knee problems after crashing at both the Tour of California and the Tour de Suisse. He ultimately underwent surgery in July, missing the Belgian championships, Tour de France and world championships. He conceded that it was “a blunder” to return to racing so quickly after his crash at the Tour of California and that it simply served to compound his problems.
“We significantly underestimated the rehabilitation,” Boonen said. “An injured knee and races don’t really go hand in hand. It was trial and error for months on end. Both physically and mentally it was very tough.”
The former world champion eventually returned to racing in September after a difficult summer of recuperation, but was frustrated not to be able to race to win. “I really had to start from scratch. It takes so much energy just to build a base,” Boonen said. “It’s difficult just to ride along. I’m used to racing; I’m used to making the race.”
Boonen admitted he watched the final kilometres of the world road race championships in Australia with a certain degree of regret. “It’s easy to say now, ‘that was my race!’” he said. “But look, I wasn’t there.”
The Belgian’s sights are now firmly set on 2011, and in particular the spring classics. Last April, he was beaten by the rampant Fabian Cancellara on the cobbles, but he clearly aspires to return to his past levels.
“I have ambition, I’ll be easily motivated for the winter,” he said. “I feel a kind of pressure, like I must do something, show something. But it comes mainly from myself. I feel little pressure from the outside.”
Meanwhile, Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere told L’Équipe that Boonen’s return to racing is essential to his quest to find a new sponsor for 2012. He also said that his leader’s recent comments on Quick Step’s transfer strategy were not helpful.
“It’s true that Tom vented his anger a little bit in the Belgian press,” Lefevere said. “I can appreciate his points to a certain extent but he was ill-advised. He doesn’t understand that our sponsorship comes to an end in 2011 and that in 2010 my team rode without a leader for over four months. We did a good Tour de France, but that’s not enough. Tom’s absence has had an effect on our image.”
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.