Boonen: I prefer the rainbow...

Tom Boonen still hasn't broken his sprint duck at the Tour, but he is looking forward to a Messiah's

Tom Boonen still hasn't broken his sprint duck at the Tour, but he is looking forward to a Messiah's
PIC BY TIM DE WAELE It's becoming harder and harder to imagine what challenges could possibly sustain Tom Boonen's interest for the next five years - the last five of the 25 year old's career if what he said at last year's would championships in Madrid proves accurate. Boonen today added the Tour's yellow jersey to his increasingly well-decorated wardrobe.and then had the temerity to slot it in at only number two in his league table of favourite garments. "The world championship jersey is most the beautiful of all. Now I'm wearing the second most beautiful," Boonen told the press. "I've already won both, so I'm fairly well ahead of schedule at this point in my career." The Quick-Step battering ram explained how a slow puncture in the final five kilometers had ended his hopes of a first stage win of this year's Tour. When Matthias Kessler and Philippe Gilbert escaped on the Cauberg, Boonen said that he opted not to chase because "by pushing hard on the pedals, I might have caused the tire to go down more quickly". "I went as hard as I could in the final kilometer but by then Kessler was out of reach," he explained. "I wasn't surprised to be in the front group on the Cauberg: that's exactly where I expected to be. I was in around 30th position in the bunch then, suddenly, I saw Hushovd and McEwen dropping back and I started to think that the stage win was on. I went crazy when I realized that the tire was losing air." Asked how long he would try to keep the yellow jersey, the world champion joked "...until Paris." There are, though, limits to even Boonen's self confidence, and he admitted that only after a thorough examination of the stage routes to come would he be able to put a realistic timescale on his tenure. "I'll have to look at the road book," he said. "I have one second on Michael Rogers, but he's going to conserve his energy for the time trial. I'll have to see how far down Hushovd and McEwen are tonight (seven and 32 seconds respectively - Ed.). Defending the yellow jersey at the start of the race can cost you the green jersey in the last few days. I guess I'll discuss it with the rest of the team tonight and then decide. At the very least I'll be riding in Belgium tomorrow in the yellow jersey. That'll be very special - the kind of thing that maybe happens once every decade." Other rider whose efforts in the Ardennes earned him a new outfit for tomorrow's fourth stage was Jrme Pineau of Bouygues Telecom. Pineau led over the first four of today's classified climbs and now leads the King of the Mountains competition by three points from David de la Fuente. Pineau has often been criticized for his outspoken views on doping but said tonight that French riders' bright start to the Tour against the backdrop of the Operacion Puerto doping scandal left him feeling vindicated. "It's a pleasure to be racing at the front, and I'm happy that the Tour has started so well for me," the Frenchman said. "It's not things in cycling that have changed as a result of what's happened [in Spain], it's my morale. A lot of French riders have tried to defend themselves when people have been rubbishing them over the past couple of years, and now maybe we have silenced a few people."
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