De Vlaeminck: Boonen's Paris-Roubaix rivals were "third rate"

Tom Boonen made history in spectacular fashion on Sunday at Paris-Roubaix, dropping the field with 52km to race and soloing to victory. It meant that he became the first man to achieve the Tour of Flanders/Paris-Roubaix double twice, and when he crossed the line at the velodrome in Roubaix in front he did so for the fourth time - equalling Roger de Vlaeminck's all-time record of race wins there.

Belgium's De Vlaeminck is a compatriot of Boonen and won Paris-Roubaix in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1977, and in an interview with Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, he stated that Boonen's win on Sunday, which captivated all who saw it, was made easy by the absence through injury of his big rival Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) and the under-performance of the rest of the field.

"I hope Cancellara participates next year, then we see a different race," de Vlaeminck said. "I knew beforehand that he [Boonen] would be next to me [on the list of all-time career victories]. Tom can not help it that this time he had no opposition. They were not second, but third-rate riders.

"Take Pozzato: if you want to win, your task for the last hundred kilometers is to stick within an inch of Boonen's wheel. The competition provided ​​him with no obstacles and they probably couldn't have done any better than they did. For the Belgian fans, it was fantastic, but for the average, foreign cycling fans there was nothing to be seen, which is a sad affair. When he [Boonen] was twenty meters ahead, I already knew the outcome."

Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) claimed after his win on Sunday and his remarkable run of form this spring, which has also brought victories at Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and E3 Harelbeke, that people would class him as one of the greatest cobbled Classics rider of all time. But De Vlaeminck nominated a couple of glaring holes on his countryman's palmarès.

"Tom is the best spring rider of the last twenty years," he said. "But now he needs to try and win Milan-San Remo and the Giro di Lombardia like I did."

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