Tom Boonen’s final attempt to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad ended in disappointment after minor crashes took him out of contention to fill one of the few gaps left on his extensive palmarès. The Quick-Step Floors rider found himself chasing a lost cause, and opted to leave the race and step into a team car that was being driven by his father.
“It’s the first time I climbed in the car with him. We didn’t say much. I was still angry because it was hard to get the bike on the car,” Boonen said on Sporza. “I’m disappointed about the crashes. They happened due to a lack of experience from young riders. There was a lot of nervousness. Today we were unlucky. All day long we were forced onto the defensive.”
Boonen was always one of the favourites for the opening race of the Belgian cycling season but never managed to win it. He came close on several occasions, including when the race was still named Omloop Het Volk in 2007. For the first time in fifteen participations, Boonen didn’t finish the race and that was due to two crashes. He crashed a first time just before tackling the cobbles of the Haaghoek, halfway the race.
“In the first crash, I rode in third position and glanced back to check if everybody made it safely through a passage. The rider in front of me suddenly swerved from right to left and took away my front wheel. It was like a truck that swerves from one lane to the other. I figured I’d go on and see if my body felt alright. I wasn’t bothered by the crash,” Boonen said.
The second time, Boonen was one of countless riders caught in a pile-up on the cobbles of the Donderij. The pavé section follows a long downhill section and comes just before the often decisive Taaienberg, also known as Boonenberg because of Boonen’s tendency to attack on the smooth right-hand gutter.
“I didn’t crash the second time, but others landed on my bike and it turned out to be broken. It took a long time before I got a new bike. After that second crash we were minutes behind the leaders. I was riding there with Tony Martin. Suddenly, the team cars were flying by and it became quite dangerous. I was wondering why I was still bothering, and why I was taking risks,” Boonen said.
The 36-year-old Belgian rider confirmed that he would take the start of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday to find out if his body reacted well to the crash. Boonen is in his final weeks in the peloton and will retire from professional cycling immediately after Paris-Roubaix on April 9.