No time for nostalgia yet, Tom Boonen is too busy.
The Quick-Step Floors star says he’s too focused on training and preparation for his final shot at Paris-Roubaix to be misty-eyed about his imminent retirement.
The classics superstar will retire after racing a final Roubaix on April 9, and the Belgian media will be going into overdrive to bid farewell to its biggest star. Boonen, however, is keeping his eye on the ball.
“A lot of people are talking about it, but that’s normal. I am staying focused on the job,” he said in an interview with RTBF. “I thought a little bit about a week before the worlds. I realized then it will be last worlds, my last winter, but once I started training, I don’t have time to think about it.”
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Boonen, 36, is already tied with Roger De Vlaeminck with four Roubaix wins, and his dream is to retire with the record fifth victory. He came close last year, finishing second to Mat Hayman (Orica – Scott) despite coming off a nasty crash to close out the 2015 season at the Abu Dhabi Tour. That gives him hope.
“If things go well, I think I can do even better than last year. I wasn’t in optimum condition, and I still managed to finish second, and I was even in position to win,” Boonen said. “It’s a question of attitude. It’s not just a question of legs, but also of the head.
“This winter, everything’s gone well. I am in great shape again. So, yes, I believe I am capable of winning Paris-Roubaix one last time.”
Boonen has tried to downplay the growing hoopla surrounding his imminent retirement and stay focused on racing. He’s looking fit and ready to win, confirming his form with a stage victory at the Tour de San Juan in January.
That doesn’t mean the Belgian media will not be making much ado about the legend’s farewell. April 9 is circled on calendar, but that is not new for Boonen, who raced to third in his Roubaix debut back in 2002.
“How can you not see it? Ever since I have been a pro, I know all the dates of the important classics. In October, you talk about the program for the coming year. And after two winter training camps, you’re already concentrating on the first races. None of that is any different this year. But it’s true that on April 9, the moment that I cross the finish line, there’s no doubt that I will feel all kinds of emotions.”
After winning in San Juan, Boonen will race next at the Tour of Oman before racing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to open his last march across the cobbles.
Despite being clearly strong enough to keep racing, Boonen said he is ready to turn the page on his career.
“I am content. The focus and the concentration are there. Things are going well, and I am ready to do some good races. At the same time, I am also ready to start my second life after Roubaix.”
“I will try not to gain five kilos, but it won’t be easy!” he continued. “My colleagues have warned me, but seriously, I think I am retiring at a good moment. I still love cycling, and though I won’t be training five hours a day, I will still ride my bike with my friends, my brother, and my family, and if I gain a few kilos, it won’t be a disaster. … Ten kilos would be too much! For the first time in my life, I will be on vacation in July with my family. It’s something I am looking forward to.”