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"Of course I've always tried to win it, every time I've ridden Omloop. It'd be nice to win it again but it's not a race I 'have' to win to prove myself," Tom Boonen told Cyclingnews.

Photo: ASO




25.02.2014 @ 09:25 Posted by Aleksandra Górska

Having already completed three stage events this season, slightly fatigued Tom Boonen of Omega Pharma-Quick Step has returned to Belgium in order to undergo final preparations ahead of cobbled races starting this weekend with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.


"I've already raced 19 days this season and it's a great way to get ready for the rest of the season. We've almost got a Grand Tour in our legs."


The expectations were certainly extremely high after the Belgian demolished the whole opposition in Flemish Classics a year before,  but 2013 could not have been more different as Boonen hardly did any racing. Already from the very beginning, things went wrong as he had to cancel his participation in a team building camp due to a stomach infection and he later had to postpone his racing debut to the Tour of Oman when a bacterial infection made him fear that he would lose one of his arms.


He tried to reach some kind of form for the cobbled classics but crashed out of the Tour of Flanders and had to miss Paris-Roubaix. He came back in the summer season to win a stage in the Tour de Wallonie but a cyst forced him to call it a season after than race.


While his fellow riders were busy finishing their season, Boonen was working hard in the gym to come back stronger than ever before for the 2014 season, and after an extremely long preparation period underlined on several occasions how hungry for racing he was having spent over 6 months out of competition.


"If you look back at my career, if I had a bad season, it was always due to some injury, not because I wasn't good," he pointed out.


"Last was a stupid series of problems. At the start of training I was going good and then I ended up in the hospital. Then I was trying to catch up and improve but I crashed in the Classics. It was a year to forget."


"I started training very early and now I think my form base is very solid and so there's no need to panic anymore."


Boonen started 2014 season in a good style when he finished three stages within top ten in Argentina, but an important message was sent to his main opponents from the Persian Gulf as the Belgian classics specialist dominated together with his team-mates from Omega Pharma-Quick Step the Tour of Qatar, what was followed by another strong performance in less suitable to their characteristics Tour of Oman.


The 33-year old Belgian didn’t manage to add another stage victory to those two already taken in Qatar, but was in the mix when it came to the sprints in Oman, once again underlining his splendid condition ahead of the Cobbled Classics season, kicking off next weekend.


"I'm very satisfied how the two weeks in the Middle East have gone," he told Cyclingnews.


"I'm satisfied with how I felt in Qatar and Oman, so overall, I think I can be happy" 


"In the last few years we've always tried to do well at the Tour of Qatar. With Rigoberto Uran in the team for the Tour of Oman it was naturally to go for the overall classification and third place is a good result for him and for us. I tried to contest the sprint stages. It didn’t really work out like in Qatar; we made a few mistakes in the lead outs and they were complicated sprints, but I got a fifth and a third place. That's still good."


After an excellent start to 2014 season Boonen in naturally regarded a favourite for next Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, traditionally opening the Belgian cycling season. However, the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider emphasizes that even though he expects himself to perform well in the event, his all sights are on the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in April.


"It's going to be very different to racing in the sun that's for sure, even if they're forecasting pretty good weather for Belgium at the weekend. Winter hasn't really started and lets hope it stays like that," Boonen said, apparently as pleased with his suntan as his early season form."


"Of course I've always tried to win it, every time I've ridden Omloop. It'd be nice to win it again but it's not a race I 'have' to win to prove myself."


"I think the most important races are a few weeks later but even then, I try to give 100% from the start and if a result comes and if I even manage to win, then I'll be happy. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone anymore and that makes it all more enjoyable and possible."



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