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Boonen plays down effect of Flanders course changes in 2013

Next year on Sunday March 31, Tom Boonen will have the prospect of a record-breaking fourth win in the Tour of Flanders in his sights, but the Belgian says that the new route changes in next year’s Ronde will not make for a huge difference compared to 2012, which was already radically altered compared to previous years.

Boonen has three Flanders victories in his palmares, dating from 2012, 2006 and 2005, and a fourth would make him the all-time record holder ahead of Fiorenzo Magni, Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman and Johan Museeuw.

The first part of the 2013 Flanders route is completely unlike the opening leg of the 2012 race, which kicked off with a fairly long run due west for about 50 kilometres out of the start town of Bruges, followed by an approach path towards the decisive Flanders hellingen from their northern side.

In 2013, instead, the Tour of Flanders course will head directly south from Bruges before swinging east through the town of Kortrijk towards the Flemish Ardennes and the day’s main menu of climbs. However, the re-designed route still has an identical finale to 2012, with the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg forming part of a circuit of climbs prior to the finish in Oudenaarde.

“Lots of riders will be absolutely dead before the final lap,” Boonen predicted earlier this week, speaking to La Dernière Heure.

“There are some changes, but the finale is the same. The one big difference is that [unlike in 2012] we’ve all done the route before, so we know what it’s like. But in any case, as we always say, it’s the riders who make the race, not the course itself.”

As for the hundredth anniversary and the chance of winning such a historic occasion, Boonen - currently training with his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team-mates in Mallorca - says it will be inspirational. “A race like Flanders in its 100th year will be something very special.”

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