Even though he stated last May that he might never ride the Tour de France again, Tom Boonen has had a change of heart and now wants to be at the start in 2014.
“I am actually looking forward to it,” the Belgian rider told Het Laatste Nieuws, revealing he misses the unique atmopshere of the Tour de France.
The fifth stage of the 2014 Tour de France, that includes sections of cobbles in the north of France, captured Boonen's attention. He is a four-times winner of Paris-Roubaix and three-time Tour of Flanders winner. He naturally feels that the stage should suit him well.
“The stage to Arenberg is something I am really looking forward to,” he said.
“I was actually starting to miss the Tour. Winning is contagious and my heart bled. I missed the atmosphere of the team: fighting together for that one goal.”
Boonen last raced the Tour de France in 2011. He abandoned during the seventh stage to Châteauroux because of injuries sustained in a crash on stage 5. The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider last finished the Tour de France in 2007 when he won the sixth and the twelfth stage plus the green points jersey in Paris.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step had a successful Tour de France this year with two stage wins by Mark Cavendish, one for Matteo Trentin and one for Tony Martin.
Boonen indicated before this year’s Tour de France that he was no longer interested in riding the the biggest race in the sport. He doesn’t like the media frenzy, the pressure to win and the fierce competition amongst riders.
"If a rider fears a three-week event like the Tour de France, you shouldn't force him," Omega Pharma-Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere said in May. "I would have loved to have him at the start in Corsica, of course. For publicity value, it would have been great but things are as they are."
Boonen, a former yellow jersey wearer and winner of six stages, now has Mark Cavendish on the team to divert the media attention.
“The media won’t ask me anymore how many stages I plan to win or if I am going for the green jersey,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws.
“We have Mark Cavendish for that now. The cobbled stage to Arenberg might be something for me. I am actually looking forward to being in the Tour de France again.”
Boonen will have to earn his place in the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team for the Tour de France. The competition within the team for the nine places on the Tour squad will be fierce, with key domestiques as important as team leaders.
With Mark Renshaw returning to pilot Mark Cavendish in the sprints and new recruits Rigoberto Urán, Thomas de Gendt and Jan Bakelants all contenders for the overall classification, Omega Pharma-Quick Step will have to work out what role Boonen can play.
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