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Tom Boonen talks about the World Championship
By Staff
Date: 9/22/2006
Tom Boonen talks about the World Championship

Tom Boonen talks about the World Championship
The World Road champ talks about the World's, Bettini, the Tour and being public property.

On the 17th of September Tom Boonen appeared for the last time at the start of an official race in his rainbow jersey at the GP Isbergues. The Madrid world champion has been very successful showing off the 5 coloured bands on their white background for the past twelve months. If there ever was a curse on the jersey he seems to have done away with it pretty convincingly. “Come on, that curse story is just plain nonsense. It’s just because the jersey has been worn by a few guys that didn’t actually deserve wear it!”

Tom Boonen on the Arenberg in Paris Roubaix. Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti

GVA: Tom, you’re about to race the most important race of the year. A few weeks ago however, Paolo Bettini publicly declared that the parcours would be too tough for you –and that it fits him like a glove.

Boonen: I really don’t understand why an intelligent person would say something like that. Announcing that you will be the man to beat in the media before the race even started is just about the dumbest thing you could do. It’s much better to lavish praise on the competition and to keep your own ambitions on the background. But I guess it’s an Italian thing: they all think they’re team leaders and potential world champions, and every year again they ride each other’s chances to pieces. Ah well, Bettini’s words are just a half-assed attempt to try and make me doubt my own chances but they don’t keep me awake at night. If it were up to me I’d love Salzburg to be a really tough race, actually. The worlds are a one-day race with their own set of rules.

GVA: You strike me as someone who will try twice as hard to achieve something after being told you can’t do it.

Nah, I don’t get extra motivated because Bettini is saying that Salzburg is too tough for me. I want to win that race badly, but the only pressure I feel is the one I impose on myself - just because I want to become world champion for a second time. You know, in ten years a rider gets about 2-3 shots at gold, so even if you can only win the jersey once it’s already great. Twice is exceptional. (laughs) And if you can win it three times, you’re Oscar Freire! It’s remarkable that he doesn’t always seem to realize how unique his achievement really is. In Oscar’s mind, being a three time world champ is only natural. He’ll probably already be retired for thirty years before he realizes that he was perhaps one of the greatest talents cycling has ever seen.

Tom slips on the Maillot Jaune Stage 4 Tour de France.
Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti

GVA: How do you and Bettini get along?

Paolo isn’t the easiest person to work with, but all in all we get along. But there are a few ‘collision points’ between the two of us each season; moments that we’re both in the same team and/or in races we’d both like to win. Fortunately, that only really happens 2-3 times a year with Milan-Sanremo, Flanders and the worlds. So there’s always a chance that we’ll clash, but that doesn’t outweigh the surplus Bettini brings to Quick.Step.

Quick Step team mate Paolo Bettini GP Lugano 2006
Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti

GVA: Was the Tour the only disappointment in an otherwise flawless season?

(Stunned) Absolutely not. The first week was really good, and I wouldn’t want to trade those four days in yellow for two stage wins. They’re still worshipping Marc Wauters at Rabobank because he got to ride in the yellow jersey for one day. And his team has spent millions on riders over the past few years who never managed to wear yellow…why would I complain about four days in yellow?

GVA: True, but before the start of the Tour you were saying you’d go for the green jersey and stage wins.

What else could I have said? That I was coming along just to make the peloton a little bit bigger? No one would have let me get away with that. But granted, it didn’t work out the way I hoped it would. And then the criticism started, people telling me that I had myself to blame for the high expectations. And when I asked them what they meant by that, they told me ‘you shouldn’t have won so much during spring season’. I was baffled. You know what I’ll do next year? I’ll just show up thinking I’ll ride the first week and then pull out when I feel tired. And if anyone has a problem with that, they can get bent.

Super Tom in Green 2005  Photo c. Lazer Helmets

GVA: You went through a bad patch afterwards.

I don’t know what was wrong with me when I got home. I was both mentally and physically empty and didn’t feel like talking, to anyone. My mum and Lore (note: his girlfriend) made me stay inside for a few days and I spent a few days resting. I went for a swim and for drinks with some pals and after a while I felt the urge to race again. And right now I feel better than I did at this point last year, actually.

GVA: You’ve been public property for a few years now. Were you afraid that it would get even worse after Madrid?

Yeah, but it got better. The team and I have some experience in dealing with these things by now. The winter was still busy, because you can’t stay away from the off-season celebration ceremonies. But the amount of interviews and public appearances has been drastically reduced. In 2005 I pretty much had something to do every day, but now I’ve got a little time for myself again.

GVA: I just handed you a letter addressed to ‘Tom Boonen, Gazet Van Antwerpen’. They know where to find you!

(laughs) How about ‘Tom Boonen, Monaco’? Those make their way to my mailbox too! The postman sure seems to know where I live by now. And then there are the letters with just ‘Boonen, Belgium’ or ‘Boonen, Quickstep’, even they make it to me. Amazing really.

GVA: A few weeks ago there was a rumour that you were in jail. You’re still the subject of some sensational gossip.

Yep, the gossip treadmill is still working overtime. Is it jealousy? I don’t know, but I can tell you that it’s really annoying. I’m not in the tabloids just yet, but the amount of venom people dare spit on the internet is just mind-boggling.

GVA: Then don’t read it.

I don’t. But my significant other has the irresistible urge to check cycling forums. But you can’t do anything about it, unfortunately. It’s impossible to control what people say on the internet.

GVA: Did you spend a lot of time in Monaco this season?

Not as much as I would have liked to. I suppose that will have to wait until after the worlds, when I’ll be getting some rest and planning my holidays.

GVA: So when will they start?

Maybe even immediately after Salzburg. I’m on the list for the Franco Belge and Paris-Tours, but that’s just in case. The UCI’s decision to organize the worlds a week earlier isn’t ideal for me. I could probably stretch my season another week, but those two weeks until Paris-Tours might be too much.

GVA: The Tour of Flanders is one of the only races that can make you nervous before the start. Is it the same with the worlds?

Yeah, but there’s a difference: at the worlds I’m more worried about my team than about my own ability. When working towards Flanders you’ve got more control over factors outside of your own form.

GVA: Did you make any demands regarding the Belgian team for Salzburg?

Not really. But (National Coach) Carlo Bomans often consults with the riders so that works out the same. He knows what he’s doing.

GVA: Let’s talk about the recent media storm involving Moser. What goes through your head when the president of the association of professional riders says that maybe we should just give up fighting doping?

I suppose he wants to return to how things were during his time. Moser isn’t the right man for that position. Because 80% of the riders don’t even know he’s the president, and because he retired as a pro fifteen years ago. And because he talks crap, obviously.

GVA: But you guys have Jens Voigt as the riders’ representative right?

Voigt? Pfff. If they show that guy a parcours consisting of 200kms of sand he’d still give it the go-ahead.

GVA: Wouldn’t you want to take up a position like that? You once personally stopped the entire peloton during the Tour of Belgium.

No thanks. I don’t want to baby-sit a bunch of kids. And even if it would bring solidarity between the riders, the guys in their cars in the back would still mess things up.

GVA: Looking back, what was the most beautiful moment in your rainbow jersey? The first time you tried it on?

(laughs) The moment I will get a new one in Salzburg. No, seriously, I think it was winning the Tour of Flanders. Winning that race as the reigning world champion was something very special.

GVA: Belgium is expecting nothing less than gold from you in a week, Tom.

You know what I hope? That Nuyens, Gilbert or Devolder step up to my level next season. Really, I mean it. I don’t need to win everything anyway. But it would mean a lot less hassle for me if we could spread the public expectations and attention over two Belgian riders instead of just one. And sure, they’ll try to pitch us against each other, something they tried to do with Steegmans this season too, and he broke under the pressure during the classics. I can’t wait until that challenger steps up. It’ll be twice the fun.

Source: Gazet Van Antwerpen
Read the complete interview

Super Tom Boonen
Tom Boonen whether you call him Tornado Tom, The Cub of Flanders or another nick name on the eve of Paris Roubaix we take a look at his career. Photos and links of interest.

Quick Step Tests the Arenberg Cobbles
Tom Boonen and the Quick Step/Innergetic Team did a morning reconnaissance and training ride on to the cobbles of the Arenberg today. Sunday's Paris - Roubaix. Team Roster and Photos of the ride.
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