Two days before Paris-Roubaix, Quick Step's star Tom Boonen is still trying to work out the pain from his crashes in Wednesday's Scheldeprijs before attempting a record-equaling fourth win on the vélodrome in Roubaix.
Boonen spoke to the press in Kortrijk after doing his reconnaissance of the pavé in France and said he would be back in top form for Sunday's race.
Boonen paid another visit to the chiropractor on Friday to work out the last of the soreness from the mid-week battering "There are some bruises in the bodywork but those should be fixed by Sunday. Of course it's better not to crash. My saddle probably hit my thigh and that muscle is stiff. I crashed on my backside and that's all blue.
"I was suffering a little bit during the reconnaissance, especially on the cobbles but the second day after a crash is always the worst. I'm assuming it'll be all right by Sunday. It causes a bit more headaches in the build-up for Roubaix but without pain I'll be one of the main competitors," Boonen said.
After an exciting Tour of Flanders where he narrowly missed the podium, Boonen expected that a solo move like the one from Cancellara last year would be out of the question for the 2011 edition. "There's a lot of headwind so a solo doesn't seem possible to me; it'll be harder to be alone in front."
The Quick Step team showed good tactics in the Tour of Flanders which eventually led to the defeat of Cancellara, although it wasn't a Quick Step rider who clinched the deal. "Hopefully it'll be a scenario like last Sunday. It'll be hard to improve on our tactics especially against superman," Boonen enjoyed using the new nickname from Cancellara.
"It was a fun race for everyone unlike last year in Roubaix, then the favourites were riding for second place once he went," Boonen said.
The major course change for this year's Paris-Roubaix is the addition of a section of pavé closely following the Trouée d’Arenberg. The 1.4km Millonfosse à Bousignies comes just 4km after Arenberg, and Boonen said it would be "interesting".
"There will be a bigger group out of the forest, but there'll be less time for recuperation with the next sector following quickly. In the past many riders could return after the forest but that will be more difficult this year, thus he selection will be made earlier than other years."
Boonen expressed the hope that at least one or two of his teammates would make the cut after the forest, especially Sylvain Chavanel is regarded as a co-leader to Boonen just like Cancellara has former Roubaix-winner Stuart O'Grady. "You can't compare Stuarty with Sylvain in his current shape," Boonen stated. "Sylvain [Chavanel] isn't a domestique. We always start with two or three guys as team leaders. There's never a hierarchy among the leaders."
Boonen's teammate Guillaume Van Keirsbulck will debut in Paris-Roubaix at the tender age of 20 following injuries to several of the more veteran riders. Boonen had some advice ready for the grandson of former world champion Benoni Beheyt. "He needs to try to be in the break. You don't have to battle for the cobbles. If he gets in there he'll get very far," Boonen said.
While Cancellara is regarded as a top favourite yet again, Boonen felt the Swiss strong man was past his peak. "He's been riding at a high level since Milan-San Remo. I think he's reaching the end of his peak. Of course he's the top favourite but right behind him there are not four other favourites but at least eight or nine.
"Hushovd? I didn't see him much in Flanders as I was always riding near the front of the race. Paris-Roubaix is a less explosive but more extensive race. With his engine, he'll be there," Boonen said of the world champion.
The French sports newspaper L'Equipe threw some oil on the fire by publishing an article in which Cancellara stated Boonen was 'en crise'. Cancellara also said that during the final kilometre in the Tour of Flanders he preferred to start the sprint early and finish third rather than seeing Boonen get the win.
Boonen said he had received an apology for the story from Cancellara. "It was a bad translation. Fabian called me to say he has been misquoted. His English isn't 100%, like my French isn't 100%. It happens all the time," Boonen said.
Just like last year, Boonen has the chance to come level with quadruple Roubaix winner Roger De Vlaeminck, also known as monsieur Paris-Roubaix. "The records stands and to me there's not much difference between winning it once or four times. If you win once you already showed that you can do it. They've been asking me about the record for so long now. If Cancellara wins for the third time it'll be even more exciting next year."
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