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"It's a nice way to celebrate my contract extension. In the past weeks I thought a lot about my future and when I decided to stop after next year's Roubaix I came to peace with myself."

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele

TOUR DE WALLONIE 

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
24.07.2016 @ 00:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Less than 24 hours after announcing an extension of his contract, Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) proved that he is still competitive by winning the first stage of the Tour de Wallonie. After a great lead-out, he emerged as the fastest in the uphill sprint where he relegated Jonas Vangenechten (IAM) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) to the minor podium positions.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Victorious Tom Boonen: The contract extension gave me peace

Tom Boonen is back to winning ways, following a thrilling uphill finish on the inaugural day of the Tour de Wallonie, where he displayed his power and motivation which made him throughout the years the rider he is today. Supported by a very strong squad – which worked at the front of the peloton to control the three-man break and bring it back before the finish in Mettet – the seven-time Monument winner showed a huge turn of speed on the uphill drag, breezing past Jonas Vangenechten (IAM Cycling) and Arnaud Démare (FDJ).

 

Tour de Wallonie, a race created back in 1974, witnessed two other successes of Boonen in the past (2008 and 2013), but this one can be viewed as the most special of the three. Not only that it helped Boonen break the ice in the 2016 season, but it also marked the start of what will be his final months in the peloton. On Friday, the 35-year-old resigned with Etixx – Quick-Step for 2017, agreeing on a contract that will see him ride in the bunch until Paris-Roubaix, a race with which he identified since his debut in the pro ranks.

 

By taking the win – his 118th since joining the team managed by Patrick Lefevere – Tom Boonen became the first leader of the overall and points classification, ahead of Vangenechten and Vyacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha). His teammate, Matteo Trentin, is also in the top 10, after getting involved in the sprint, these two results helping Etixx – Quick-Step take command in the team classification.

 

"Today's goal was to try and go for the sprint. The finale was difficult, so I decided to go without a train and make my own sprint. The guys controlled and caught the break with 10 kilometers left and in the closing part, a difficult one as the road was rising, I opened my sprint with 250 meters left and then was able to accelerate again", Boonen said after his win in Mottet.

 

"It's a nice way to celebrate my contract extension. In the past weeks I thought a lot about my future and when I decided to stop after next year's Roubaix I came to peace with myself. I feel things are now in the right place, so I'm much more relaxed. From this point on, I will just try to enjoy and make the most out of the last part of my career.

 

"I'm building up to the Worlds in Qatar where I want to be at the start with my best sprint condition. I wanted a stage win and I did it immediately. We were almost certain that there would be a sprint in the first stage. The other stages in the Tour de Wallonie are harder.

 

“I'm very happy because I already had to start my sprint 250 meters from the finish. You should be able to turn on for another 150 meters and I managed to do that in the uphill finish. The team has also positioned me perfectly. 

 

"I really wanted a stage win. The other stages are not so easy for the sprinters, so I had to really grab my chance. It was a tough and long sprint, but I was launched perfectly. I am very happy.

 

“Today I really wanted to win the first stage. It was a long sprint. I went with 250 meters to go. I really rode with intelligence. I really gave everything in the last 100 meters. To sprint in a straight line is always difficult because there are lots of fresh riders. I found the gap at the flamme rouge. It was perfect. I took the wheel of Lampaert who placed me in the front.

 

"I stayed at the front of the race during the last kilometers. I found the wheel of my teammate Yves Lampaert kilometer and it was really perfect. I'm glad I could winf in Mettet and to have the first yellow jersey of the Tour de Wallonie. We came to win and it's already done.

 

“We always come here to win. I won the first stage like we did last year. I do not think I have the legs to win the overall.

 

“This is an excellent preparation for the World Championships in Qatar. I want to be successful in classics like Hamburg and Plouay and arrive in Qatar with an optimal shape. Tomorrow I'm expecting a vengeful Démare.

 

"Etixx - Quick-Step won the Tour de Wallonie last year when Niki Terpstra took the victory by winning the first stage. I have now that done, but I do not think I have the legs to win the Tour. I'm going to try though.

 

"I won’t have my best form before Qatar but I wantto do nice things in the Ride London classic, Dwars door het Hageland, Cyclassics Hamburg and the GP Plouay. When I try to go to races for the victory, I hope to be at the start with my best sprint form in Qatar.

"I cannot be professional cyclist forever. It would be a wonderful way to say goodbye at the velodrome of Roubaix. During the last months I was approached by several teams and I took the time to weigh the pros and cons. The time had come to put an end to the speculation.

 

“I will once again pull out all the stops for this team and try to win a major classic in 2017. In that way I can end my sporting career in beauty.

 

"It was not difficult to choose an extended stay at Etixx - Quick-Step, a contract extension was always in my head. From other teams there was still no concrete offer.

 

"I had two options. Either I went to another team with a new challenge and I rode for a little longer or I stayed with my team with people who have always believed in me and been there for me in good and bad times.

 

“Frankly, I could not imagine that I would ride in another jersey. Etixx -Quick-Step again wanted to give me a contract for one season, but I just signed for four months.

 

"I trust that I will stop after Paris-Roubaix. It would be a wonderful way to say goodbye on the velodrome of Roubaix. The decision i finally may. That feels great, and is also good for my personal life. I cannot start a new challenge as the previous project is not finished me. I have ambitions for the current season. I live for the Worlds in Qatar.”

 

Jonas Vangenechten: Etixx-QuickStep were very smart

"For now, I have the disappointment of losing in the sprint but Etixx-QuickStep did it very well,” Jonas Vangenechten told Directvelo. “When Boonen went, he had Trentin on his left. He closed the door. That's his job. It is professional and correct. I was boxed in. I came back on Boonen but it was too late. This is because of the small things.

 

”I cannot be completely disappointed. I was good. It was a tough sprint because the finish was a slight false flat. I thought the local circuit would be more difficult. The last two kilometers were not difficult. It was a bit disorganized in the sprint. There was no team that took control. You needed a little luck. I hope to get my revenge tomorrow.”

 

Wallonie youngster takes the mountains jersey in home race

Wallonie-Bruxelles took the mountains jersey with Thomas Deruette.

 

“I knew that the start was very winding,” he told Directvelo. “I rode at the front of the pack and I waited until it slowed down a bit and then I went. It went as palnned. Finally, we ended up with three in front quite early in the stage. The other two riders were very interested in the bonus seconds. From my side, I had the opportunity to take the mountains jersey without too much fight in the sprints. I also attacked a second time during the stage to take extra points and therefore ensure that jersey. I then stayed in the peloton since I took two bonus seconds during the stage. I could go for the jersey as best young rider Tomorrow I will try to keep the white mountains jersey jersey.

 

"I also gave the maximum to take the bonus seconds for the U23 standings. It is a good day. The mission for the second stage is to keep the jersey and fight for the best young rider classification.”

 

Belgian sprinter gets confidence in Wallonie

For Crelan, Gerry Druyts was a creditable tenth. 

 

"I am indeed relieved that I have found my good legs," he said ten minutes after the finish. "Because after my good spring it was not as I expected during the past two months. I began to doubt. But this is the sign of better times.

 

"I'm tenth, but I am up against much better riders, Kenny Dehaes for example. I was up there. Today the wind came from the left. And that played into the hands of the WorldTour teams that put the rest -including me - full in the wind. Moreover, Tim (Merlier) and I could not stay together. Hopefully tomorrow will  be another chance and we can prove that a top 3 is a possibility.”

 

Tim Merlier said.

 

 "I was well positioned. But when the sprint began, I missed the power in the legs to do anything. Hopefully it is better tomorrow."

 

Cofidis youngster aims to get Vuelta selection in Wallonie

For Cofidis, Loic Chetout took the jersey as best young rider.

 

“It was not at all planned to take this jersey,” he told Directvelo. “I wanted to anticipate the finish by starting from afar. I finally attacked 40 kilometers from the finish with a few riders. We had the chance to do the final sprint for the bonuses. At the briefing, we were told that we had to try to take seconds. So I won the sprint there. Therefor is a bit of a surprise for me to take this jersey. But it's very funny to wear a distinctive jersey. Now that I have it, why not keep it?

 

“My primary objective is to find the pace at the Tour de Wallonie and show that I am fit to be selected for the Vuelta. In the sprint today, Michael van Stayen went long. Unfortunately, I think he ended up being boxed in. Suddenly, he broke a spoke. Personally, I preferred to play it safe and stay in the middle of the field.”
 

Aggressive Viacheslav Kuznetsov shows his attention in Wallonie

Team KATUSHA’s Viacheslav Kuznetsov started the 37th VOO-Tour de Wallonie with ambitions in the general classification. With this in mind, immediately from the start Kuznetsov put himself in the daily break, where he was very active, collecting the bonus seconds and mountain points.

 

”Kuznetsov is traditionally strong in this race and two years ago he was 7th in the final classification. So at the start of the race he had some ambitions and proved it by placing himself in the break. Viacheslav was very active, he won two intermediate sprints, collecting 6 bonus seconds. Later the break was caught, but that was enough for Kuznetsov to move into 3rd place in GC. Still all of the race is ahead, but we will ride it day by day. In general, our team was active today. Alongside Kuznetsov it was Maxim Belkov who tried an attack himself, but finally all was decided in the bunch sprint, ” explained sports director Gennady Mikhaylov.

 

Viacheslav Kuznetsov was the best KATUSHA rider with 14th place.

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