Six days ago Tom Boonen was riding around Italy at the Giro d'Italia for the first time in his career until he decided to call it quits after stage 13 and head 1000km to the north to compete at the Tour of Belgium with his eye on overall success. Boonen, who had previously won 10 stages at the Belgian stage race and the overall in 2005, was one day shy of marking a calendar year with out victory until he crossed the line ahead of French national champion Arnaud Démare (FDJ) and Belgian champion Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) in Knokke-Heist. The site of his last win on stage 2 of the same race last year.
"Today we had the first road stage of Tour of Belgium, a classic stage that is almost the same every year," Boonen said. "It was pretty windy but the wind was not in the right direction to split the group with echelons and make any big gaps. So we decided to go for the sprint instead. I think everyone did a perfect job helping me out. In the end I made the right decision to stay with Démare, just let him do his sprint. I waited for the last 50 metres when the road started to go uphill to pass him. I like this finish. It isn't so explosive, which suits my skills."
Boonen currently occupies seventh place on the overall classification, 17 seconds down on race leader Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling).
The Tour of Turkey was Boonen's first race back from his shoulder injury which he rode in service of Mark Cavendish before racing the Giro with 18th place on stage 6 to Castiglione della Pescaia his best result of the race but with the option of challenging for stages and the overall in Belgium or climbing the Madonna di Campiglio and Mortirolo, it was an easy decision for the 34-year-old.
"I'm also really happy with the win today because I am coming back from some bad luck in the first part of the season with my injury. I had to work hard to get back to this kind of condition and I will continue to build on it day-by-day," he explained.
With a winning history at the race, Boonen added that he will look to replicate his 2014 exploits and claim back-to-back wins in the first two stages of the race.
"I've won this stage five times and I will do my best for a good result again tomorrow,' he said of the 201.1km stage 2 from Knokke-Heist to Herzele.