Etixx-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere has told Cyclingnews that Tom Boonen should immediately announce his retirement if he wins Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, going out on top, with a unique record of five victories in professional cycling’s toughest Classic.
“Everybody has to decide things like this for themselves. But if I was Tom and I won Paris-Roubaix, I know what I’d do: I’d retire immediately. I’d go out at the top, via the front door,” Lefevere said.
Boonen laughed when Cyclingnews told him what his long-time boss had said, dismissing the idea. But he also dropped a veiled hint that he has started to think about when his career will eventually end. However, he denied that any decision had been made.
“We’ll see…. Of course it’s a thought in my mind,” Boonen said
“But I always think that it’s not true when people say they’ve thought about a big decision in life for six months or something. I think the decision will happen in a second. The moment is there and you say: 'Boom!' And that’s it.”
Has it happened yet?
A difficult comeback for a possible final shot at victory
Boonen has been fascinated and arguably obsessed about Paris-Roubaix since he was a teenager and finished sixth in the amateur edition of the race. It sparked his love for the French race despite him being a Flandrian. His powerful imposing physique and bike skills make him a perfect rider for an annual appointment on the pavé of roads of the l’Enfer du Nord.
Boonen wants what could be a final shot at victory at Paris-Roubaix. Not to win a fifth, but because it would complete a return from the serious and career-threatening head injury he suffered at the Abu Dhabi Tour last October. His career could have been over due to the complicated nature and location of his skull fracture. He seems to really appreciate having possibly one final shot at victory.
“I’ve missed two editions in 2013 and 2014, I was in the hospital, so I’m really happy to be in the race this year. If I win a fifth win it’d be special, maybe not for the number but because I’ve worked really hard for it. A lot has happen since my last win (in 2012) and that is what would make it special.”
Boonen has still to win a race this season but has made an impressive recovery considering the seriousness of his head injury. He confirms it has been a long and often difficult comeback to form.
“Most people think I crashed and then simply took an extended holiday at the end of the season to recover, started training again and I’m back again but that wasn’t the case,” he said.
“I was in hospital and in intensive care and the specialist told me I’d need six months before I got back on the bike. He said it wasn’t sure if I’d recover well and it wasn’t sure if I’d get back to my old level. I didn’t really belief him but I did feel pretty bad. I damage my brain that controlled emotions and things, so I felt different to before.
“But I had to try to race again, there was no doubt about that in my mind. However, the recovery was the hardest part. When I started training, the first three weeks were tough. I had a day on and then a day off, a day on and then two days off. I was getting worried but then I was able to train normally with the guys at training camp and that gave me hope. A spark of hope is all you need.
“I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been able to do in the last months after hearing him say that. It took a lot of effort. But I was determined to try. I knew that everything before Paris-Roubaix was going to be hard and there have even some been doubts about Paris-Roubaix. But I’ve been evolving pretty well in the last few weeks. I think I have a shot of it on Sunday. Just having a little chance is all I did it for.”
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.