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Boonen may race Paris-Roubaix

The Belgian has begun to train ahead of the April 12 classic, which Boonen has won four times

ZOTTEGEM, Belgium (VN) — Belgian Tom Boonen could race Paris-Roubaix on April 12, but the possibility remains small. With a return to racing yet to be officially announced, the four-time Paris-Roubaix winner will train on the Ronde van Vlaanderen parcours Wednesday with his Etixx-Quick-Step teammates.

The 34-year-old ‘Tommeke’ fell and dislocated his shoulder in the first stage of Paris-Nice on March 9. It required surgery and ostensibly wiped him out of the classics, which for the Belgian were the races from Milano-Sanremo on March 22 through Paris-Roubaix three weeks later.

“Our sponsor Marc Coucke said last night that he gives Tom a one-percent chance of racing in Paris-Roubaix, and that’s a small chance,” Etixx-Quick-Step’s spokesman told VeloNews.

“Given the problems he’s had, he’s improving quickly. He was stretching and in the gym right away, but we are taking things day by day, which means the recon of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and the following day’s press conference with the team.”

Coucke, CEO of pharmaceutical company Omega Pharma, met with Boonen last night at a company party. During the event, he posted a photograph of himself with Boonen and wrote on Twitter that the star cyclist could race in Paris-Roubaix.

“Breaking news,” he wrote, “@tomboonen1 has to train hard, 1% chance that he’s at #ParisRoubaix!”

Coucke added, Boonen would preview the Paris-Roubaix course and decide later about his participation. He wrote, “#hopespringseternal”

Etixx-Quick-Step team officials would not say whether or not Boonen was trying to return in time for Paris-Roubaix, but that he wants to train with Niki Terpstra, Zdenek Stybar, and the team’s other stars Thursday on Belgium’s cobbled roads.

Boonen will ride 140 to 160 kilometres with part of the Ronde team three days ahead of the race. They will take in most of the climbs and important cobble sectors to prepare for the monument.

The Ronde van Vlaanderen leaves one week or seven days until Paris-Roubaix, which Boonen won in 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2012. The race cuts through northern France, covering 253 kilometers over small farm roads before the Roubaix velodrome.

Since finishing third in 2002, Boonen raced every edition of Paris-Roubaix except in 2013 when crashes in Gent-Wevelgem and the Ronde ruled him out.

“Having something to aim for will help his recovery and keep his hope alive,” said the team.

“Training on the Ronde course is good for both Tom’s head and for his teammates. Terpstra, Stybar, and the others look up to Tom and look to him for advice.”

Boonen will meet the press in a conference for the first time after Paris-Nice’s disaster. Friday at Quick-Step’s headquarters in Wielsbeke, Belgium, he should explain more about his recovery and possible return to racing.