The Tom Boonen soap is finally over. The young talent broke his contract with USPostal on Saturday afternoon after the financial wranglings had been sorted out. Boonen's representatives, the SEM Agency, and Mark Gorski came to an agreement allowing Boonen to leave his two-year contract with US Postal at mid term.
Keen to join the training camp for his New Team Quick-Step Boonen flew back Europe on a private jet - lent by the sponsor Latexco.
Boonen is expected to have begun training today (Sunday) in Saint-Rafaël.
”This evening there will be a team photo shoot for the teams yearly advertising photos. We are very happy to have him in Quick.Step," said Patrick Lefevere to the agency Belga.
This means that Dave Bruylands will definitely not get a place on the Quickstep rosta as Boonen is the 25th member of the Quickstep squad. He has signed a new two year contract with Quickstep.
Equally, I suppose, it means that if he wants to Johan Bruyneel can do some late shopping. It must be a disappointment to US Postal co-sponsor Berry Floor,
a direct commercial rival of Quckstep, who also make laminated flooring products, to lose Boonen at this stage.
Early reports on the Boonen Affair
In spite of Boonens announcement in the Belgian Press yesterday the situation is still not clear.
The excellent Cycling4all today announced -
"US Postal is still not sure for which team he will ride next year, while most teams are starting with their first training sessions. Boonen , himself declared in the Belgian press that it is for 99% sure that he will ride for Quick Step-Davitamon next year (RUG).
But his agent
is still negotiating with US Postal Service about his present contract with this team.(29/11/02)
The excellent Velo club tonight report that Boonen will leave the US Postal team and join the QuickStep – Davitamon team (28/11/02)
The newspaper group RUG are part of an agreement between Tom Boonen and Postal US concerning the departure of the young Belgian talent. The compensation amount has been established by common agreement.
The US Postal team will require Boonen to go to San Francisco to finalise the agreement.
Boonen can, therefore, leave for training this Friday with his new colleagues of the Quick Step – Davitamon team. The new division I team Quick Step-Davitamon will have its first pre-season training camp in Saint Raphaël (Valescure) starting this Friday, November 29, to Friday December 6.
"If the matter between Boonen and Postal US is settled, Tom will accompany us," declared Patrick Lefevere.
Lefevere reacted to the comments of Hein Verbruggen, President of the UCI, that had criticized the attitude of Lefevere in the Boonen “affair.”
"I respected all the rules and yet I was criticised just the same. Boonen was offered to me, I will confirm that once again. Others do the same things secretly and nobody mentions those facts: Bruyneel took Heras from Kelme two years ago."
Early reports on the Boonen Affair
Boonen Soap Continues 11/09/02
Tom Boonen is still determined to leave US Postal. Talking to the Gazet van Antwerpen today the young star said:
"I have underestimated this transfer. It has completely gone off the rails. If I could do it again I would think twice - but it is impossible for me to return now. I will ride for Quick Step in 2003, it is clear that the US Postal argument is not reasonable. A quick end to this affair would suit me."
At the minute Boonen is still under contract to the US Postal team until the end of the 2003 season.
There is speculation that the recent US Postal signing of "Mad Max" Van Heeswijk, a rider more than capable of supporting Hincapie's ambitions in the Classics may see Johan Bruyneel have a change of heart. Although speaking
to our good friends at Velo Club du Net on November 11th, Johan Bruyneel was clear and concise about his new sponsor Berry Floor, Tom Boonen and George Hincapie.
Vélo-Club du Net - How much are Berry floor putting into the US Postal budget for 2003?
Johan Bruyneel - That’s a rather direct question Ca! (Laughter) Compared to the principal sponsor, Berry Floor will be contributing 25%. The biggest sponsor is US Postal, in second position Berry Floor and the other Co-sponsors are less important but supplement the budget.
VC - What about the Tom Boonen affair?
JB - As you know, Berry Floor is a Belgian sponsor. It is the first time in the history of the team where we have a large European sponsor. It is very significant for us. Tom Boonen was one of the assets of the team which interested Berry Floor, who have an interest in the Classic races. This business really saddens me. It is at a dead end. Boonen has a contract with the team for next year but he wants to leave... For me, he is a member of the team for 2003!! I can say that I will really fight to ensure that Tom stays with US Postal, he is a very significant rider in my eyes and the eyes of the sponsor.
VC - do you think it will end up in the hands of lawyers or in the Courts?
JB - I do not know... in any case is not up to us to go to the Courts! Our contract is with Tom is entirely valid and the UCI knows it. The UCI wants that contract to be respected; that is all that counts for me.
VC - Could the arrival of Berry Floor bring other Belgian riders to the team? It is known in particular that Axel Merckx is very close to Lance...
JB - I looked at the transfer market, but could not find any Belgian riders who tallied with our team plans. For me, the nationality of a rider is not very important. What counts, is his qualities as a person and cyclist. Any new rider must be able to integrate into the team.
VC - What will the objectives in 2003 for your two main Classic riders, George Hincapie and Tom Boonen?
JB - For George, it will be Paris-Roubaix. For Tom also.
Photo courtesy US Postal Official Site.