April Fool's Day may still be a little way off, but, in the current climate of coronavirus concerns, it would be easy to miss the news coming out of Belgium that four-time Paris-Roubaix winner and three-time Tour of Flanders champion Tom Boonen may be considering coming out of a retirement – or at least not flatly denying it – apparently inspired by the comeback of tennis star and Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters.
Boonen retired from professional cycling in April 2017, the day after riding to 13th place at Paris-Roubaix, and began what has been a successful motor-racing career in July of that year.
Speaking to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad's supplement NU at the weekend, Boonen used Clijsters' comeback as inspiration for at least thinking about his former career, during which, besides his Roubaix and Flanders victories, he also won six stages of the Tour de France and become the road race world champion in 2005.
"I can understand very well why she's decided to play tennis again – very well indeed," Boonen said. "To be honest, it's got me thinking: if she can make a comeback, why couldn't I? But then I immediately think, 'Why would I?'"
On Wednesday morning, however, Boonen was still happy to talk more about the possibility of coming out of retirement on radio show Studio Brussel while in the Belgian capital for the filming of his new TV show, Tom Fietst (Tom Cycling).
"If I was ever to do it, it would be now," he said. "And that doesn't mean I'm going to do it. I've just been thinking about things, as I turn 40 at the end of the year."
As Het Nieuwsblad also pointed out, Les Amis de Roubaix – the volunteer group that helps to keep the cobbled roads used at Paris-Roubaix in rideable shape – posted a picture to social media of a mocked-up, or potentially real, trophy with a fifth cobblestone added to a plinth of four stones commemorating Boonen's wins in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2012, accompanied by the words: we are ready.
No rider has ever won five Paris-Roubaix titles; Boonen holds the record of four victories with fellow Belgian Roger De Vlaeminck, who won his last title in 1977.
From: @A_ParisRoubaix To: @tomboonen1 Subject: we are ready. pic.twitter.com/7iB1k1X5XEMarch 4, 2020