Tom Boonen talks about the World Championship
The World Road champ talks about the World's, Bettini, the Tour and being public
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. ďCome on, that curse story is just plain nonsense. Itís just
because the jersey has been worn by a few guys that didnít actually deserve wear
Tom Boonen on the Arenberg in Paris Roubaix. Photo c.
GVA: Tom, youíre 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 Ėand that it fits him like a glove.
Boonen: I really donít 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. Itís
much better to lavish praise on the competition and to keep your own ambitions
on the background. But I guess itís an Italian thing: they all think theyíre
team leaders and potential world champions, and every year again they ride each
otherís chances to pieces. Ah well, Bettiniís words are just a half-assed
attempt to try and make me doubt my own chances but they donít keep me awake at
night. If it were up to me Iíd 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 canít do it.
Nah, I donít 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 itís already great. Twice is
exceptional. (laughs) And if you can win it three times, youíre Oscar Freire!
Itís remarkable that he doesnít always seem to realize how unique his
achievement really is. In Oscarís mind, being a three time world champ is only
natural. Heíll 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 isnít the easiest person to work with, but all in all we get along. But
there are a few Ďcollision pointsí between the two of us each season; moments
that weíre both in the same team and/or in races weíd both like to win.
Fortunately, that only really happens 2-3 times a year with
and the worlds. So thereís always a chance that weíll clash, but that doesnít
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 wouldnít want
to trade those four days in yellow for two stage wins. Theyíre 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 yellowÖwhy would I complain about four days in yellow?
GVA: True, but before the start of the Tour you were
saying youíd 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 didnít 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 Ďyou shouldnít have won so
much during spring seasoní. I was baffled. You know what Iíll do next year? Iíll
just show up thinking Iíll 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 donít know what was wrong with me when I got home. I was both mentally and
physically empty and didnít 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: Youíve 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 canít 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 Iíve got a little time for myself again.
GVA: I just handed you a letter addressed to ĎTom
Boonen, Gazet Van Antwerpení. They know where to find you!
(laughs) How about ĎTom Boonen, Monacoí? 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 ĎBoonen, Belgiumí or ĎBoonen, Quickstepí, even they make it to
me. Amazing really.
GVA: A few weeks ago there was a rumour that you
were in jail. Youíre still the subject of some sensational gossip.
Yep, the gossip treadmill is still working overtime. Is it jealousy? I donít
know, but I can tell you that itís really annoying. Iím not in the tabloids just
yet, but the amount of venom people dare spit on the internet is just
GVA: Then donít read it.
I donít. But my significant other has the irresistible urge to check cycling
forums. But you canít do anything about it, unfortunately. Itís impossible to
control what people say on the internet.
GVA: Did you spend a lot of time in Monaco this
Not as much as I would have liked to. I suppose that will have to wait until
after the worlds, when Iíll be getting some rest and planning my holidays.
GVA: So when will they start?
Maybe even immediately after Salzburg. Iím on the list for the Franco Belge
and Paris-Tours, but thatís just in case. The UCIís decision to organize the
worlds a week earlier isnít 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 thereís a difference: at the worlds Iím more worried about my team
than about my own ability. When working towards Flanders youíve 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 heís doing.
GVA: Letís 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
I suppose he wants to return to how things were during his time. Moser isnít
the right man for that position. Because 80% of the riders donít even know heís
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 ridersí
Voigt? Pfff. If they show that guy a parcours consisting of 200kms of sand
heíd still give it the go-ahead.
GVA: Wouldnít you want to take up a position like
that? You once personally stopped the entire peloton during the Tour of Belgium.
No thanks. I donít 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 donít 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, theyíll 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 canít wait
until that challenger steps up. Itíll be twice the fun.
Source: Gazet Van Antwerpen
Read the complete interview www.gva.be
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
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.
Note: A search on the Daily Peloton search engine for "Tom Boonen" returns