Tom Boonen says he’s back on track to be at his best for the spring classics following knee surgery last summer that kept him out of both the Tour de France and world championships in Australia.
Boonen, who turned 30 last month, says he expects to be at full strength in time for the northern classics.
“I feel good. I have the same strength in both legs now,” Boonen told the Belgian daily Het Nieuwsblad. “I started training immediately after the surgery. I was only 14 days off the bike. I’ve really done some hard work to get ready.”
The three-time Paris-Roubaix winner had another rocky season in 2010 despite a strong showing in the spring classics, when he was second in both Milan-San Remo and Tour of Flanders and fifth at Paris-Roubaix. Crashes at both the Tour of California and the Tour de Suisse aggravated tendonitis in his left knee, prompting him to go under the knife for surgery to ease the pain.
The Belgian classics specialist did not rush his return to competition and, after it became obvious he would not be ready for the world championships, he delayed his comeback until Franco-Belge in October.
“I feel no pain at all in my left knee, but when I recently came back to Belgian from Monaco, it started to hurt,” he said. “I think it’s from the cold weather. It’s something that I think will affect me for the rest of my life.”
Boonen said he’s been training diligently to come into the 2011 season ready to be a factor in the spring classics. He’s also been cross-training with boxing to improve his overall fitness. A safari trip to Africa also helped him keep a positive perspective despite the setback, he said.
“I went to Tanzania and Kenya for 14 days and entered a totally different world where the people have nothing but are actually much happier than us. That makes you think,” said Boonen, who traveled to Africa for the second time. “At first, you’re put off by the slums where the shops are, but I found that you can get used to lesser conditions rather quickly. It’s their smile that stays with you.”
He added that his race program going into the spring classics will not change, with a likely start in the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman in January.
“I have no problem staying motivated, even though I am now over 30,” he said. “The goals are the same, to be ready for my time of year.”