By Brecht Decaluwé in Paris
It was uncharacteristic to see Quick.Step Innergetic's Tom Boonen taking a back seat to the sprint on the Champs Élysées, but with drops of rain beginning to fall and a bigger prize on the horizon, the Belgian decided to be safe and take the green jersey he'd cinched during the stage. He merely kept an eye on his rivals Erik Zabel and Robert Hunter, and followed them in. "I sprinted on safety so I choose their wheel but that way it was impossible for me to win [the stage] of course," Boonen said.
Just by crossing the line in Paris, Boonen finally achieved the coveted green jersey. "You can't compare it with the Tour of Flanders, the world championship of whatever other race. It's the highest achievable goal for me in a Grand Tour," Boonen explained. "I'm very happy and proud about it," Boonen said at the post-race press conference.
'Tornado Tom' explained that it was very special for him to finally win the jersey since he has been targeting it for four years. "If you have to fight for it a couple of years it's more beautiful." He went on to explain that the pressure of early success may have doomed his earlier efforts to take the overall points classification. "You can't start in the Tour like I did in 2004 [with two stage wins]. It's not good - like Contador - that you win straight away, you need experience to handle it," Boonen warned the winner of the Tour de France. "Here you get to know yourself better than in any other race."
After the Belgian went winless in the 2006 Tour de France, there were critics saying he'd lost his speed, but this year, Boonen has shown he was again the sprinter of 2004 and 2005. "I knew that the sensations I had one month before the Tour were fresh and good. That's the way to prepare myself for the Tour: take it easy and stay relaxed," Boonen explained.
Then the 26 year-old said he would take his form to the lucrative post-Tour criteriums next. "I'll do five criteriums and then hopefully no races until the Vuelta," Boonen detailed. "There I will prepare for the world championships for 100%, and if it turns out that I need three weeks then I'll ride three weeks there.
"I still need to take a detailed look at the course of the Worlds but I think it's possible," Boonen expressed he has set his sights on the world championships in Stuttgart. For tonight Boonen hoped to find some decent food. "We have dinner with the team and I don't know what restaurant it is, but I hope they have stoofvlees met frietjes," Boonen said optimistically, referring to the Flemish stew that is served with fries.
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