Tom Boonen may have taken the overall win at the Tour of Qatar, but not everyone on the race was as ‘lucky’ as him, as Procycling’s Ellis Bacon finds out.
Save for a spot of off-roading and an argument with a spectator’s plastic bag, things always seemed to go relatively smoothly for Lance Armstrong when he was racing. As they say, though: you make your own luck.
Tom Boonen seems to fit into the same category as Armstrong: a rider for whom everything goes right. The Tour of Qatar this week has been proof yet again of the phenomenon.
Boonen and his Quick Step team-mates have dominated the race from start to finish, but how is it that he never flatted once in what has been a veritable puncture-fest? Collarbones have been snapped left, right and centre, too, as the frenetic, nervous, and not forgetting fast, racing (Monday’s second stage was, at an average of 55.5kph, the fastest average speed ever recorded on a stage of any stage race) took its toll.
As Armstrong often did at the Tour de France, Boonen spent virtually this entire race surrounded by his seven Quick Step team-mates at the head of the bunch. But how does that prevent punctures? Australia’s Drapac-Porsche team had seven punctures this week, while one Topsport-Vlaanderen rider punctured four times in just one stage. The raised ‘cat’s eyes’ at the side of the road were often to blame, as were the stones that had been blown onto the road. Maybe Boonen never had to grovel in the gravel, but to never puncture once? Lucky…
And what about Slipstream’s Magnus Backstedt crashing and breaking his collarbone while trying to lead out team-mate Chris Sutton for the win on stage five? Boonen was mere feet away, and yet managed to avoid the resulting tangle. ‘Big Magnus’ now has a fight on his hands to get back to fitness in time for the spring Classics. And yet the same fate might just as easily have befallen Classics king Boonen, right?
Wrong. Boonen’s Quick Step directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters believes it’s simply all about being in the right place at the right time.
“Yes, you probably have more risk here than at a lot of other races because of the speed, and especially because of the crosswinds, so it’s better for us if we can control the race from the front – there’s definitely less risk for Tom then,” Peeters told us. “Maybe you need a little bit of luck. But as a team we are highly disciplined. We have a bunch of good riders here on the squad who are very adept at racing like this, and that’s what’s important. But there are risks in all races, and Tom has to race somewhere.”
Yep – it seems that, in cycling at least, you more often than not make your own luck…