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If Belgian Tom Boonen is to play a major role in the upcoming monuments it will be touch and go, says team Etixx-Quick-Step.

Photo: Sirotti

PARIS - ROUBAIX

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RONDE VAN VLAANDEREN

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SOUDAL - QUICK STEP

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28.03.2016 @ 09:57 Posted by Jesper Ralbjerg

With three Tours of Flanders and four Paris-Roubaix titles on his palmares Boonen ranks among the all-time cobble stone greats but his crash last October in the Abu Dhabi Tour where he fractured his skull has apparently left him a marked man.

 

“This isn’t the same Boonen,” sports director Wilfried Peeters said Friday at the E3 Harelbeke in Belgium when speaking to Velonews.

 

If he wins either Flanders or Roubaix this year, Boonen would set a record. He already holds one for E3 Harelbeke, where he walked away with the laurels five times. On Friday, he managed 14th.

 

For Boonen, that, emphatically, is a mediocre result in his favourite racing terrain and it raises questions with Belgium’s Tour of Flanders right around the corner this week and Paris-Roubaix over the border in northern France the following Sunday.

 

“It will be close if he will be there for the monuments,” team boss Patrick Lefevere told VeloNews. “He’s close, but he needs some luck as well. He will be ready, maybe not yet for Flanders, but a week later in Roubaix.”

 

Sports director Tom Steels told of a complicated comeback for Boonen, who has already suffered setbacks with a knee injury, crashes, and last year a fractured collarbone. Due to the setback, he was behind a month in training.

 

“It was a big bang and took a while for him to recover. He then had to work on his condition,” Steels explained while Boonen climbed on his bike before E3.

 

“At the first training camp, he suffered in the first three days, but then began to follow the guys. Is the winning edge there? I think so. He’s a winner. He will always be a winner, that’s not going to change.”

 

Now 35 years old, Boonen last won a cobbled monument in 2012. This year, Boonen will face stiff competition from Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky), eternal rival Fabian Cancellara (Trek – Segafredo) and Van Avermaet. Last year’s Roubaix winner John Degenkolb (Giant – Alpecin) is out after a training crash.

 

“It’s a very competitive field. You can at least count 10 riders with different qualities and tactics that can change the way of the course,” Steels said. “No longer just Cancellara and Boonen … It’s much more competitive. It was competitive before, but now you see the competition is a bit level.”

 

Boonen’s contract with Etixx–Quick-Step expires this year. Its renewal may well hinge on Boonen’s results over the next two weeks.

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