Tom Boonen to start season in Argentina

Tom Boonen wants to forget 2013 as soon as he can. After a crash that ended his ambitions for the Tour de Flanders and the remainder of the Spring Classics, and an early end to the season because of a nagging perineal cyst, the Belgian rider has set his sights on 2014. 

"I started training eleven weeks ago," Boonen told Sporza. " I started off with working in the gym to improve stamina and did core stability exercises. Now I am back on the bike but it's important not be in shape too early." 

Boonen's first race kilometres of the new season will be in Argentina. "The Tour de San Luis is the perfect way to start the season, also because of the climate. After that I'll fly on to Oman and Qatar so that is one an a half months of good weather. That's an advantage towards the guy who stay in Europe." 

In 2013, Tom Boonen missed two of these races because of injuries. He had an intestinal infection which cut his training days short before going to Argentina and made him miss the team training camp. He also missed the Tour of Qatar, a race he won four times in his career, because of a wound to his elbow he picked up while training on his mountainbike. The wound became infected and resulted in the hospitalization of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider. 

The bad luck continued at Gent-Wevelgem, where he crashed and abandoned, while at the Tour of Flanders, a crash after 20 kilometres forced him to abandon. Boonen could not start in Paris-Roubaix and only returned to racing in May. His lone victory of the year came at the Tour de Wallonie, which was also the last outing in his season of just 46 race days.

A perineal cyst then kept him off the bike for weeks, but a similar lay-off in 2011 preceded a fine 2012 season, and Boonen signed off for this year hopeful that he would hit the ground running in 2014. Speaking on Tuesday, he confirmed that his spring objectives would follow a familiar pattern.

"The race programme consists of Omloop het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, if I make the team of course" he joked to Sporza. "Those races are a must for every Belgian rider. It's more or less a habit and I am much looking forward to riding against Fabian Cancellara, Peter Sagan and the other strong riders."

The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are on Boonen's list too. "I would love to win Paris-Roubaix again. Not only because it would make me the record holder [Boonen currently has four victories, the same as Roger de Vlaeminck] but just because I would like to win it one more time." 

Boonen repeated his wish to be on the Tour de France team again. "I did miss that race this year. When I saw our team miss out on victory in the team time trial by only a few tenths of seconds, I felt bad. There is no team time trial in next year's Tour but I do feel I have a place in the team. Now we have Cavendish on board to work for, the Belgian media won't be scrutinizing me. There is always pressure in the Tour de France but it's not the hardest of the Grand Tours."

Tom Boonen recently renewed his contract with Omega Pharma-Quick Step for another two seasons. 


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