Dirk Demol has warned teams not to write off Tom Boonen ahead of his final Classics campaign. The Trek Segafredo director worked with Boonen during a stint at QuickStep and has witnessed the veteran rider prove his doubters wrong on many occasions.
"People have said before, a few times, that his best is behind him. I remember they said he was finished once and then he came back in 2012 and won everything from Harelbeke to Paris Roubaix," Demol told Cyclingnews.
"Then, remember after his crash in Abu Dhabi in 2015 people said the same thing. It was a very hard fight to come back but he almost won Paris-Roubaix this year. Then if you look at his performance at Worlds, where he finished third, it showed that when he has his goals he's still a big contender."
Boonen, 36, has already announced that he will retire from professional cycling at the end of the 2017 spring classics campaign and many expect that QuickStep will unite behind him for one last time. Demol expects such a scenario, despite the Belgian team holding a number of potential cards to play.
"The team that he has around him, they'll be there for him. In the past, when I worked with him it was easy to calculate the tactics because it was everything for Tom. He deserved that because of his palmares. I think it will be Wilfried Peeters in the car so if it's down to him I think they'll back Tom once again in his last campaign."
Demol will take charge of a new classics line up at Trek Segafredo next season. With Fabian Cancellara now retired a new contingent has been assembled with John Degenkolb moving across from Giant Alpecin. Demol expects another open Classics season, and points to the strength in depth at a number of squads.
"We have so many young riders coming up. Peter Sagan is talking about Roubaix and that's the one he wants to win. John is back, I believe, and there are more riders. It will be difficult for Tom. The Classics this year were good to watch and there are several strong teams, more than before. There was a period when there were maybe three or four top favourites but now we have maybe 10 to 15 riders who can win in the Classics. It's going to be another very interesting season."
Cancellara may have hung up his wheels, Demol confirmed that the multiple Classics winner will still have a physical presence at the team this year.
"Fabian will be around," he confirmed.
"He'll be in the hotel and the fact he'll be there will give us a bit extra. As a rider he took responsibility. Whenever we had a meeting we'd first talk with Fabian and then the whole team. He was always saying what he wanted in the group and motivating the riders. If he can bring that over, if we need something extra, I think he will be a good factor for our family."
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