With 25 out the last 31 days occupied with racing, Omega Pharma-Quick Step has announced that Tom Boonen will not start Stage 18 of the Vuelta a España as he turns his attention to recovery head of the World Championships later this month.
"Today it was again another hard stage," Boonen said as he finished 66th on stage 17. "Unfortunately I couldn't be there to contest the sprint. I was in good position, but there was a cobblestone section in the final kilometers. In that section there was a small space in the road where there were no cobblestones. Everybody rode in that part of the road. I was following [Fabian] Cancellara and [Jesper] Stuyven, and [Maciej] Bodnar was with them.
"I don't know what happened exactly, I think he had a mechanical. So he moved to the left, which meant I had to brake. I lost immediately 100 meters and I struggled to come back as it was such a high pace in the final. So, my sprint was over before the finish line. It's a pity because it's a missed opportunity, but in any case I am happy about what I did at La Vuelta."
Omega Pharma-Quick Step had stated the stage a rider down with Rigoberto Uran a non-starter due to asthmatic bronchitis. With Tony Martin also leaving the race to concentrate on the World Championships and Gianluca Brambilla's disqualification for fighting with Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff-Saxo), the team is now down to five riders.
Boonen explained on the team website that he was happy with the condition he has been working on over the last month but needed a period of rest before approaching his next goal of the season.
"Everything went as planned," he said. "I raced eight days at Eneco Tour and then I did La Vuelta up until today, so that's 25 days of competition out of 31 days. It was a hard grand tour, but now it is time to recover. I will keep my body moving in these next days, but without intensity. My condition is very good at the moment. I tried to contest a few stages at La Vuelta. I was also in two breakaways, I worked for Uran and I even passed mountains without problems.
The 2005 World Champion added that with Uran leaving the race due to illness, it freed him to leave the race earlier then he planned to.
"A guy with my kind of build needs a little bit more time than climbers to recover from these kinds of efforts," he said. "After the stop of Uran, for me, it's better to focus on recovery and then be ready to play a role at Worlds starting with the team time trial.
Boonen's interrupted 2013 ended in July at the Tour de Wallonie which ruled him out of the World Championships and the team trial event. Having been part of the team's 2012 success, Boonen is excited to play his role later this month in Ponferrada as Omega Pharma-Quick Step attempt to claim a hat-trick of rainbow jerseys.
"I can't wait to be a part of this race again," he said. "I had great memories of the victory we had in 2012. It was an incredible feeling when you compare it with an individual victory.
"I'm happy to be part of it again and give my contribution to this team, and try to add to the total of the the OPQS TTT gold medals following the win of the guys last year."