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No Vuelta for Boonen, worlds in doubt

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) will likely not race the Vuelta a España later this month and could miss the road cycling world championships in September.

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Tom Boonen (Quick Step) will likely not race the Vuelta a España later this month and could miss the road cycling world championships in September.

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Boonen got caught up in this crash at the Tour de Suisse in June.

Reports in the Belgian media say former world champion returned to training Friday for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in July. Team doctors said Boonen will not be ready to start the Vuelta, just three weeks away.

“The Vuelta looks unlikely and his participation in the worlds is problematic,” said Quick Step doctor Yvan Van Mol in a wire report. “The objective is to progressively increase his workload. Tom can return to competition in the middle of September. The most important thing is that Tom recovers completely and he can race without pain.”

Boonen, 29, underwent surgery on his left knee to repair ligament damage that dogged him throughout the 2010 season. Boonen crashed at the Tour of California in May and again at the Tour de Suisse in June, two accidents that sidelined him for the Tour de France.

Doctors decided that injuries were serious enough to warrant surgery and he went under the knife on July 15. Boonen trained for the first time on the bike Friday and doctors said if he returns too soon to competition, he could further damage his ligaments and put his career at risk.

There’s still a chance that Boonen can start the worlds in Australia. He won the 2005 world title in Madrid after participating in that year’s Vuelta.

Many of the worlds-bound contenders are set to start the Vuelta and Boonen is the first major sprinter to likely miss the Spanish tour.

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