Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) continues his build-up to the world championships by lining up at the inaugural World Ports Classics, a two-day race organised by ASO which takes place in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Friday’s first stage brings the peloton from Rotterdam to Antwerp via a 201km-long route along the North Sea coast. Saturday’s return leg from Antwerp to Rotterdam follows a more inland parcours of 161.5km.
Without any categorised climbs on the agenda, the race should favour the sprinters, and Boonen will do battle with the likes of André Greipel (Lotto Belisol), Oscar Freire (Katusha), Theo Bos (Rabobank) and Kenny Van Hummel (Vacansoleil-DCM).
“Everything will depend on the tactical choices of the different teams,” Boonen told L’Équipe. “We know the route, especially the first stage which passes through Middelburg. It will be very windy and so very exposed for any breakaways. It’s hard to say if this two-stage race will become an objective for me every year like the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix because we don’t know yet what its appearance will be in the years to come.”
Boonen told La Dernière Heure that he was not the man to beat this weekend. “I’ll be one of the protagonists but not the favourite for the World Ports Classic. There are other riders who are also in great form and the race comes during the build-up to the Worlds, so you’ll need to be vigilant.”
Boonen enjoyed a stunning run of success this spring, winning E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix across three consecutive weekends. His manager Patrick Lefevere is confident that Boonen can be successful in the closing weeks of the season even though he is without a win since the Belgian championships in June.
“Tom isn’t the kind of guy to worry about that, but he always need to win to feel good,” Lefevere told L’Équipe. “It’s in his make-up because he’s a real competitor.”