Tom Boonen likes what he sees after an inspection trip this week to scout the world championship course set for Copenhagen later this season, but compatriot Philippe Gilbert was less than enthusiastic.
The 2005 world champion joined Gilbert and under-23 contender Jelle Wallays in a scouting trip to Denmark this week in their first close-up look at the elite men’s road race course.
“It’s the easiest route since Zolder (in 2002, won by Mario Cipollini). It suits me and I think I can be one of the favorites,” Boonen told La Dernière Heure. “There are not many riders who can make a sprint after racing 260km. And it promises to be both fast and nervous. The circuit is short – 14km – there are challenges at every turn. It’s flat, but there’s enough there to tire you out.”
The Belgian trio rode four laps on the 14km circuit course. The men’s road race, set for September 25, will feature 22km of an open road section before 17 laps on the course for a total of 260km.
As Boonen suggested, the course is being hailed as one ideal for pure sprinters. The course features two small hills, but nothing steep enough to really eliminate anyone who’s in fighting shape to make a run for the rainbow jersey.
Boonen also said weather could be a factor, especially if winter comes early to Denmark in late September.
“Wind shouldn’t be too much of a factor because the route is surrounded by houses or woods,” Boonen said. “I think the average will be at 45kph. I think this course is for guys like Goss, Cavendish, Farrar, Hushovd and Breschel, who is back from an injury and will be very motivated.”
Gilbert, hot off his Ardennes treble, didn’t have the same enthusiasm for the course as his compatriot. He said the flat, fast course presented few challenges and little terrain to make effective attacks.
With the course tilting toward Boonen’s characteristics, Gilbert suggested he will play a wild-card role within the Belgian team.
“I had already previewed it via video, so I knew what to expect. It’s a very fast course. On our first lap, we averaged 35kph in the small ring, so that says it all,” Gilbert told the newspaper. “Everyone will believe that they can win, because every nation will be able to produce a sprinter. Greipel with Germany, UK with Cavendish … They say, ‘this is our chance.’ You really won’t need to go to the Vuelta a España to ride into fitness, because you won’t need to be at 100 percent of condition to win. It will be a little like Milan-San Remo. It’s hard, but not hard at the same time. This year, I was not 100 percent and I could won. On the other hand, if I had had the same condition at Liège, I wouldn’t have finished 10th. I will go (to the worlds) without pressure, but not without ambition.”