Boonen suffers bad luck on run to Perpignan

Tom Boonen missed out again after a tough final 30km to La Grande Motte.

Tom Boonen missed out again after a tough final 30km to La Grande Motte. (Image credit: AFP)

After his last-minute reprieve Tom Boonen (Quickstep) has yet to set this Tour de France alight, and during Wednesday’s fifth stage he endured bad luck and a tough day battling back into contention from two punctures.

"I came back after the first puncture," said the Belgian champion, who was originally excluded from the Tour after his out-of-competition positive test for cocaine, but won his appeal the day before the Grand Départ.

"The moment I reconnect [with the front group], I puncture a second time," he continued. "That was too much bad luck." In what was perhaps a reference to his recent off-the-bike troubles, he added: "But I prefer to be lucky in life and unlucky in sport than the other way around."

As for the stage to Barcelona, on Thursday, Boonen is unsure whether he can prevail on the 6.6% climb that comes just 1500m before the finish. "It might be too steep for me," he said.

Boonen’s manager, Patrick Lefevere, said earlier that he expects his star rider to be in contention for stage wins later in the Tour, in particular if Columbia-HTC maintain their current work rate in trying to set up Mark Cavendish. "I think and hope they will be tired," said Lefevere.

"Tom, as soon as he knew he was coming to the Tour, was prepared mentally to ride," added Lefevere. "The Tour is three weeks. I am sure he will be involved."

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Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian,, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.

He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi

His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.

Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.