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Super Tom Boonen
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 4/8/2006
Super Tom Boonen
 

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.

Tom Boonen was first Celine Tytgadt Let's Talk Belgian Riders! Celine wrote about the Belgium riders of prominence but also the "Young Guns" of the Belgian peloton mentioning one promising 21 year old, Tom Boonen who for the past two years had ridden as a stagiare for USPostal team with two victories in 2000 in the U-23 races GP Stad Geel and a stage 1 at Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux. He improved this in 2001 with six victories and many top 5 finishes. He signed his pro contract in 2002 with Lance Armstrong's team US Postal Service.

Celine went on to write... "For example Jurgen Van Den Broeck. Ranked fourth in the UCI-ranking for juniors and winner of the golden medal TT in the last world championships, he is definitely one to keep on eye on in a few years.
Or the 21-year old Tom Boonen. In the opening weekend in Belgium for the cycling season, Tom managed to ride in the spotlight in both races, Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. He is now part of the US Postal team and feels very much at ease as I noticed in an interview after Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, where he finished 7th at only 8 seconds from winner Jan Kirsipuu."

Photo on the left: Tom at the Belgian Road Championships in June 2002, photo credit Celine Tytgadt. (click on the photo for a larger image.)

Tom Boonen raced in the USA that early spring at the Redlands Classic in March of that year finishing 5th on the second stage to another rider Chris Horner who won the first two stages in the new pro team Prime Alliance. Tom finished 25th at Redlands as Chris Horner went on to take the first of several G.C.stage races that year. Another promising USPS rider Dave Zabriskie finished fifth to Horner.

The spring of 2002 had just begun for Tom Boonen in his debut year. While USPS mates Lance and Hincapie took on Mario Cipollini, the Lion King at Milan San Remo (where Mario won the Italian Primavera) Tom Boonen and Dave Zabriskie were busy  racing in California at the Sea Otter Classic, where once again Horner collected another stage race win with Dave finishing third and Super Tom 29th. Of interest in that race Henk Vogels (Davitamon/Lotto) of the Mercury team was 2nd to Horner, and Michael Barry (Discovery Channel) on USPS was 13th.

April Tom joined the USPS squad in Europe for the Spring Classics and it didn't take long for him to start showing his style and turn in results, as he finished 7th in the Three Days of Panne. Podofdonny said in his preview for Flanders, "It will be also very interesting to see how Tom Boonen fares - for a first year pro his results so far must be very encouraging."

Boonen didn't take long to show what he was capable of when he made the lead group in Paris Roubaix with his USPS mate George Hincapie. When the Lion of Flanders Johan Musseuw attacked at 40kms from the finish it was the duo of Hincapie and Boonen who were the lone chasers attempting to bring back the giant of the cobbles. Fate intervened with a car causing Hincapie to crash, Boonen pressed on alone as Musseuw's lead went to 2:00 minutes.

Boonen was caught by Steffen Wesemann of  Team Telekom who finished 3:03 after Musseuw with an exhausted Tom finishing :04 behind after doing a journeyman's work in the six hour race. Hincapie showed his strength that day finishing with the second group less than a minute down on in sixth with first chase group.

Boonen was hailed at the podium by Musseuw as his successor. The Lion of Flanders had named his successor and it wasn't long the Super Tom would soon be referred to as the "Lion's Cub"

In June the Postal team brought the Young Gun to the Philadelphia for the Wachovia Series where Jaime Nichols met the new sensation for an interview, and Tom revealed that he had won his first ever race as an amateur at 14.

Tom also gave Jaime the some insight into his debut in the pro version of the Paris Roubaix and the pressure that he now faced to deliver on the promise of his recent results. Along with the win, came the attention of the press as Tom was stopped more often for Television interviews (even in the USA later in Philadelphia) and attention from the fans; whatever anonymity he may have had he left it on the cobbles that April on the way to the track in Roubaix.

 Tom comes from a racing heritage, his father Andre Boonen was a pro from 1979 through 1984; his steady progress as a rider surely comes from the firm roots of his heritage. In June Super Tom slipped into the leaders jersey in the Volta a Catalunya on the strength of the USPostal team's team time trial on the opening stage. A stage win in the Uniqa Classic in the beginning of July became the second win of three that year with the American team of Lance Armstrong. Boonen had eight top 5 finishes by the end of the year, not a bad start for a neo pro.

By the end of July Tom Boonen became outspoken about his position with the Postal team as offers came for him to leave and sign with other teams. First on the list was the Quickstep/Davitamon team of Johan Musseuw the Lion of Flanders wanted the Flanders Lion Cub on the strong classics squad.
"It was unbelievable that I felt so strong. It was bad that George Hincapie did not feel similarly strong.
“I want to speak to the team management - I have had offers from other teams.” (July 2002)

What turned into a "Soap Opera" of exchanges with Postal and Boonen in the public that continued through fall. In December Podofdonny wrote  Boonen Soap is Over as the ink dried on the contract.


Musseuw and Boonen    photo c. Anita Van Crey and www.dailypeloton.com

By January of 2003 young Tom, now 22 escaped his USPS Contract and joined Musseuw and Patrick Lefevere on the QuickStep team. In a Podofdonny article Tom Boonen - Quickstep Cyclist! Tom was quoted, "At Quick Step, you ride with the true hunters of the Classic races, I will be able to polish my approach to these races, and these are the races that I love, like the Tour of Flanders for example."
However with the likes of Museeuw, Bettini, Vandenbroucke or Bodrogi around him maybe Boonen will not get a chance to shine next season?
"I agree, but all that does not worry me at all, because my role will not be limited to being a water carrier," replies Boonen, without beating around the bush."
Anita Van Crey photo: Boonen and Museeuw.

And "Polish his approach" is what he did in 2003 Boonen finished third at Gent-Wevelgem after a crash behind Henk Vogels and Andreas Klier the winner, and won Stage 3 in Ronde van België with his new team; if the year lacked fireworks and a few might have thought the "Cub of Flanders" made a mistake leaving the US Postal team.

 All doubts were removed in 2004 as the "Tornado Tom" as he began to be called, opened the season, with  a stage victory in the Ruta del Sol and E3 Prijs Vlaandren and his first win at Gent-Wevelgem. Tom went on to win 24 races and 17 top ten placements that year among them the prestigious first le Tour stage 6 on the way to Angers followed up with winning his 15th victory for the year in Paris on the final day. Tom finished a credible 120th in his first Grand Tour. While only 23 at this point as his birthday is late in the year, October 15th, 1980 the 'Cub' had a list of palmares in hand any rider would envy.

Photos 2004:
SterElektroToer Photo c. Anita Van Crey
Podium/trophy
Smiling Tom
Stage 2 in Yellow
At the Start    
Tom at GP Eddy Merckx  photo c. Karen Lambrecht


Tom in Green  photo courtesy Lazer Helmets

2005 opened with a campaign in Qatar winning two stages, 2 more in Tour de Picardie, another pair in Paris-Nice...looking strong he won Ronde van Vlaanderen, and then Flanders . He followed up with his first victory in Paris-Roubaix nothing less than a spectacular start to the year. In July at the Tour de France he added Stage 2 and 3 to his palmares.

In September he won the Velo d'Or beating Lance Armstrong into second in the votes from international journalists. A week later it was a brief jaunt to the Carribean to win Amstel Gold Curacao. Boonen returned in October to train for the worlds, commenting, "the World Championships a 'Really Long Kermesse' " , that said a few weeks later Tom won that kermesse and the rainbow jersey to celebrate with his birthday as he turned 25. Few riders have accomplished as many wins in significant races by this point in their career: 20 victories,15 top 5 placements and number 2 in the new Pro Tour standings.
Tom and the Quick Step/Innergetic team looked ever stronger for the 06 season for the Classics.

2005 Paris Roubaix Photos Photo c. Anita Van Crey
Boonen and Museeuw Paris Roubaix Quick Step Team Presentation.
Lion of Flanders and "Cub" training
Quickstep Reconaissance
Boonen in group
Stage 2 le Tour

2006: Super Tom's first race and first win at the Doha International in Qatar, the following up two days later winning Stage1, Stage 2, and Stage 3  and 5 and the G.C.at the Tour of Qatar.  At Ruta del Sol Super Tom met the "Sprinter Gentleman" Alesandro Petacchi with Ale-Jet and as Boonen got his revenge on Stage 5 in a photo finish victory. The first meeting of the two super sprinters scored a 2-1 advantage in Ale-jets favour; no matter the score can't be considered complete until the end of this season.


Paris Nice Stage 1  Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti

Its been non stop action since, it wasn't even Spring yet and Tom was in the leaders jersey at Paris-Nice with three stage victories; Stage 1, 2, and 4 .


Boonen celebrates with Filippo Pozzato at Milan San Remo
Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti

He proved a team player at Milan-San Remo celebrating in unison with Pippo Pozatto as he crossed the line with team work denying Ale Jet the victory in La Primavera.
E3 Prijs Vlaandren, and an attack with Lampre's Ballan brought them in a minute and a half with Boonen accomplishing his third consecutive win in the semi-classic.  April started no differently when the Tornado attacked with Discovery's Leif Hoste to win Flanders again.

With 15 victories to his credit on the eve of Paris Roubaix as the favorite to pull off a consecutive triumph he could take the year off and consider it a success, but he won't.

What makes Tom Super?
It isn't his victories alone that singles out this 25 year old native of Belgium. What makes Tom a favorite with the fans is the way he attacks on the road; when the peloton split at Gent-Wevelgem Tom didn't just send his mates on Quick Step to the front to try to bridge. He attacked the front and shared the cost as a team member. Obviously he isn't a "Prima Donna", he might have had a place on the Podium at Milan-San Remo if he hadn't burst into a enthusiastic celebration as his team mate Pozzato won.

"Super Tom".  "Tornado Tom", or "Lion Cub of Flanders", no matter your favorite nick name you choose is a rider who is willing to attack in the tradition of the great Classic riders of yesteryear, and at the same time he is a team player displaying a maturity beyond his 25 years.
A keen ability to read a race and pick the opportune moment for an attack; combined with the willingness to lay it all out on the road for victory. Winning isn't easy but his smile makes you think if you were him it would be.
He isn't a roulleur, or field sprinter though he could hold his own with the best that bear that title proudly. The fact that he finished the Tour de France in 2004 at 23 years of age says volumes in itself about the toughness and determination of this young man.
He may be the ultimate road warrior in the tradition of Steenbergen, Rik Van Looy, Tafi, Tommy Simpson and others in the past who each who displayed cunning and courage in the great monuments of cycling. And to think he is only 25!

Above this he has a great sense of humor and a million dollar smile on the podium that says "wow, I can't believe how lucky I am."

When Gazet Van Antwerpen asked him in interview "Any other big news?"
Tom Boonen replied in a dead serious manner, "I’m considering getting a sex-change during the off-season. I just haven’t found a fitting first name yet. But I don’t think that’ll be interesting enough for the papers, or will it? " And then he burst out in laughter.

He and his main rival Alessandro Petacchi make me happy to be a cycling fan and be here to see these two powerful riders dueling on the road...it's like watching history in the making.

Photos 2006:
Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Tour of Flanders
Attack on the Koppenberg
Podium Flanders
Paris Nice Points Leader
Paris Nice Stage 3
Podium Paris Nice
Podium 2 Paris Nice
World Champ wins stage at Paris Nice
Getting used to Yellow!
Time Trial Paris Nice

 

 

Don't miss this excellent article:
Paris Roubaix 1996  By Tony Szurly


Photo Courtesy Lazer Helmets Les Inseperables
 

 
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