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Boonen ready for cold weather debut in Omloop

Belgian champion Tom Boonen claims the third stage in Qatar.

Belgian champion Tom Boonen claims the third stage in Qatar. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Tom Boonen will travel to Belgium today, ready for Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The Quick Step leader is convinced he has done the right thing by avoiding the cold of northern Europe this winter.

Boonen took part in the recent Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman, winning a stage in each race. Then instead of heading home to Belgium, he traveled to Monaco, to further avoid the cold weather that has affected many riders' training in recent months.

His Quick Step team has recently revealed that Boonen has moved back to Monaco and apparently spent most of the winter there. He lived in the tax haven before testing positive for cocaine but moved back to Belgium in 2008 to be with his long-term girlfriend Lore. According to reports in Thursday's Het Nieuwsblad newspaper, she has now quit her job to be with Boonen in Monaco.

Boonen did not check out the route with his Quick Step teammates on Tuesday but is confident he is on form thanks to spending most of the winter in Monaco or in training camps in Spain.

"I'm good, I'm good. I don’t think it's possible to say if I'm better or worse in the years before but it's all looking good. So I've nothing to worry about," Boonen told Cyclingnews before heading home from Oman.

"It's always difficult to say what's the best way to prepare for the season but I think riding the Tour of Qatar and then the Tour of Oman is the best way for now. It was better than staying in Europe. There was no stress about the weather and no need to change your training and racing programmes. We raced hard for two weeks but also had some good recovery. I don't think the guys who were training in the snow in Europe will be better than the guys who were racing in the sun."

Boonen looked lean in Qatar and Oman after losing five kilogrammes. He is a natural favourite for Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad but rightly pointed out it is still early in the season. He wants to be at his very best for Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix in April.

"I've been paid back by the work I've done this year and I've lost five kilogrammes compared to last year," Boonen recently told the La Derniere Heure newspaper.

"I want to do the classics with the same form I had last year. The big classics are more than a month away, so I can't be at my best yet. Whoever's at 100 percent for Nieuwsblad can't hold their form for six weeks."

Boonen will line-up alongside Sylvain Chavanel, Stijn Devolder, Kevin De Weert, Nikolas Maes, Kevin Hulsmans, Jurgen Van de Walle and Maarten Wynants in the Quick Step team for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Boonen, Chavanel and Devolder will also ride Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne race but with support from a fresh group of domestiques. Boonen won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne last year but has surprisingly never won the Omloop.

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.