OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — Tom Boonen won’t be starting Paris-Roubaix after crashing out of the Tour of Flanders, team management announced Sunday.
The defending champion was in the main field at the time of the crash, and ended up off to the side of the road, lying on the ground for the second time in a week; he crashed at Ghent-Wevelgem last Sunday, and abandoned shortly thereafter.
“I was behind Stijn [Devolder] and we were riding on the side of the group,” Boonen said. “The speed was really high. The peloton swung a bit on the left and we were following, when suddenly I hit a plastic sign on the road. In a moment I went on the ground.
“I couldn’t even breathe at the beginning. I understood immediately that somethig wasn’t good. I had pain especially on the left side of my body. Then I saw also a deep wound on my right knee and I understood that my race was over.”
Boonen was taken to the hospital and checked over. A release from his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team noted that he suffered a bruise on his left hip and a wound to his left elbow. A gash upon his right knee required stitches, but X-rays showed no fractures.
The Belgian champion’s 2013 classics campaign comes in stark relief to that of a year ago, when he won E3 Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem, and the Tour of Flanders, and then capped it all off with a brazen solo win at Paris-Roubaix a week later.
The 32-year-old Belgian started the 2013 season late following a January mountain bike crash that led to an elbow infection, which required surgery. His year never picked up from there, and the Belgian king of cobbles struggled to find the form that was so marvelous last year.
“I have a lot more question marks, that’s the thing,” Boonen said on Friday, leading into Flanders. “Last year, I was really on form and that was the time when you have to win. The stress was different. Now, coming into this period is very stressful trying to get on a decent level again.”
Denied a chance to defend his titles at Flanders and Roubaix, Boonen will have to heal and await his next opportunity.
“It’s really not an option,” Boonen said. “It’s hard to renounce a race like that, but I really can’t ride. I have a lot of pain and in the next days for sure it won’t be better.
“Unfortunately 2013 is not really my year, not my number. I had too much troubles this year and than this. Now I really have to be careful with my physical problems. The elbow and the hip are really swollen and painful, all the left part of my body is sore.”