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Boonen's return to form hit by illness at Tour of Austria

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Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) played his hand in the early breakaway

Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) played his hand in the early breakaway (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) contests his last race in the Belgian champion's kit and will try to defend his title on Sunday.

Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) contests his last race in the Belgian champion's kit and will try to defend his title on Sunday. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Tom Boonen celebrates his first win of 2013

Tom Boonen celebrates his first win of 2013 (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Tom Boonen put in a strong ride in the time trial

Tom Boonen put in a strong ride in the time trial (Image credit: Photopress.be)

Coming into the Tour of Austria, after making the decision to skip the 100th edition of the Tour de France, should have given Tom Boonen the chance to finally get back on track after a year interrupted by crashes, infections, illness and tax-evasion payments but the former Belgian road champion has been struck down with another setback: the flu.

The Omega Pharma - Quick-Step rider has been hit with all the usual symptoms and was reportedly sent to bed by the team doctor at the end of Austria's Stage 1. Boonen arrived in the main group of sprinters that finished over 19 minutes down and now looks uncertain to make it through the remaining seven stages.

"The doctor has put Tom in his bed, he shivered," said team managed Rik Van Slycke to Nieuwsblad.

"This morning he got up and he thought he had a slight cold. After the stage it was worse. Hopefully with some rest he should be ok and does not give up."

Boonen has a difficult day ahead of him at the eight-stage race with the HC climb to Kitzbüheler Horn slotted at the end of the 157.4km stage. The climb ascends to an altitude of 1,670m metres when it will finish but Van Slycke insists that his Belgian star rider should be able to make it all the way.

"The rest is relatively flat. When he gets to the foot of the mountain, he can ride up at his own pace - just like he did in the grupetto today. It will be difficult however, when his nose is blocked."

Surrendering to illness was disappointing for Boonen who felt his condition on the way back up after the Tour of Belgium. He did however, fail to finish the recent Belgian Road Championships but believes that all is not lost. He still believes a successful back end to the season will turnaround his year.

"I'm close to my top form. At the Belgian Championships I was already close. After the Tour of Austria, I will train hard as I want to be really great at the Eneco Tour. I'm still not sure about the Vuelta but I will still be in good form for the World Cup TTT. I still believe it is possible to make this one of my best seasons," said Boonen.