Belgians delirious over Boonen

Belgium, it seems, has gone Tom Boonen crazy following the Quick Step rider's completion of the Flan

Belgium, it seems, has gone Tom Boonen crazy following the Quick Step rider's completion of the Flan

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Legends of Belgian cycling have been lining up to pay tribute to Tom Boonen after the Quick Step rider became just the 11th man in history to complete the Tour of Flanders/Paris-Roubaix double. The following quotes are just a selection of the hyperbole heaped upon Boonen in today's edition of La Dernire Heure.

Eddy Merckx: "I like his aggressive style of riding, the confidence he has in his ability. But, Boonen is not something we've not seen before. There have been plenty of others like him. I started to win big events at a young age, and even Frank Vandenbroucke did the same. But I think that when you are a true champion age doesn't matter when it comes to winning."

Merckx, though, felt that Boonen has a considerable handicap if he wants to consider winning Belgium's other 'monument', Lige-Bastogne-Lige: "His weight! At the moment he's a really big guy - about 1.93m and 84kg if I remember rightly. He's got to drag those 84 kilos up the Walloon hills, which are nothing like those of the Tour of Flanders, as they are longer and sometimes even steeper."

Asked if Boonen could improve in the high mountains and become a rider more in Merckx's own style, the five-time Tour winner responded: "The bar shouldn't be placed too high for him. You journalists have a role to play in Boonen's career, by not making crazy demands of him."

Would Merckx compare Boonen with anyone? "Godefroot? No, they are different. Roger de Vlaeminck? They are a bit more similar, but Roger climbed better. Eddy Merckx? I think I was more of an all-round talent than him, no? But he does have a bit of my mentality."

Walter Godefroot: "Based on what I have seen over the past few weeks I think that Tom Boonen is on the same path as Rik van Looy. He is a champion, he was one of the favourites for Roubaix and showed that perfectly through his pedals. Most of the specialists missed his train when it pulled out of the station."

Johan Museeuw: "All Belgium was dreaming about this double, but Tom is so young that I scarcely wanted to consider it. I never achieved it myself, and he it seemed so simple for him at the age of just 24. Deep inside I felt that he had the capability to pull off exploits of this type. I really admire the manner in which he kept his focus after Flanders and looked towards Roubaix. A great champion had been born."

Rik van Looy: "Tom Boonen's exploits are a real gift to our country. In the same way that Henin and Clijsters' victories boosted Belgian tennis, Tom's performances will do the same for cycling. He has proved that talk about his youth was totally out of place. And he is still going to improve, believe me. He has still got to learn about how to dominate his rivals, how to impose himself on them, so that even on the days when he is not at his best he will still be able to win."

Roger de Vlaeminck: "I predicted he would do the double. He is the best rider of the moment in these races and if he continues like this he will break my record of four Roubaix wins. Only falls or punctures can stop him doing it. He could take 10 or 12 Flanders and Roubaix wins because if things continue as they were on Sunday when there was no opposition, then who will be able to stop him? His rivals rolled out a red carpet for him all of the way to Roubaix, without ever attacking him. Who was he up against on Sunday? Hincapie and Flecha haven't got any kind of palmars. I had to ride against champions like Merckx, Godefroot and Moser."

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