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Boonen cleans slate ahead of Flanders

Boonen: 'I've won a lot, but it's wrong to say that there's less pressure'

KORTRIJK, Belgium (VN) — Tom Boonen told journalists at a conference today that the scoreboard resets ahead of the Tour of Flanders Sunday.

“I’ve won a lot, but it’s wrong to say that there’s less pressure,” the Belgian said. “Every race you do is important. Though it’s nice to have these wins, you have to forget everything you’ve done the week before and race the best you can.”

Boonen has been unstoppable this year due partly to a strong team and a lack of health problems. OmegaPharma-Quick Step won 23 races so far, including seven by Boonen. He won the last two races he has started, both serious semi-classics: E3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem.

In E3 he attacked, played off his teammate Sylvain Chavanel and readied for the sprint. In Wevelgem, he relied on his team and won in a sprint.

Fabian Cancellara of RadioShack-Nissan shaped both races with attacks, but nothing as strong as he’d done one year ago in E3 Harelbeke. He was marked as the top Flanders favorite last year as Boonen is this year, which makes one think: “Is Boonen really the rider to watch for Flanders?”

“Fabian is the big favorite. Why? It was in your newspaper!,” Boonen said, looking at a Belgian journalist. “Last week, he didn’t win but it’s a new race on Sunday. You have to forget the other races.”

Boonen and Cancellara have been butting heads for the last few years. Boonen won his first Flanders in 2005, when the Swiss finished 62nd. He won again in 2006, but Cancellara had his turn in 2010. He dropped Boonen on the Muur-Kapelmuur and rode to the finish line solo.

“Fabian is a different rider, he needs to drop me. The thing is, he has a bigger engine and he needs to drop me and to ride clear,” Boonen explained.

“He’s my colleague. We’ve been fighting each other for the last four or five years. I don’t even know him that well, just from the races. In E3 Harelbeke, we talked for a few minutes about his recent bad luck. We don’t have any problems with each other. I appreciate him for who he is. We’ve competed against each other for all these years, but it’s great to have him as a rival.”

Bookmakers give Cancellara 2.5:1 odds, Boonen 2.75:1. However, as Boonen said, the scoreboard resets. Ahead of last year’s race, no one spoke of Nick Nuyens (who is out this year with a fractured hip). It’s the same situation for Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) ahead of Milan-San Remo.

“Everyone has been talking about me and Fabian, but there are a lot of guys who can win. Sylvain [Chavanel] is one of the big favorites. Peter Sagan [of Liquigas-Cannondale] is one of the guys who will be on the podium. If not this year, he’ll be there in the next year or in the next three to four years.”