Boonen comes of age at Flanders

Touted as the successor to Flemish Classics hero Johan Museeuw, Tom Boonen lives up to that billing

Touted as the successor to Flemish Classics hero Johan Museeuw, Tom Boonen lives up to that billing
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM On the eve of last week's GP E3 Harelbeke, Tom Boonen was mulling over a recent defeat and was told how, in 1978, Freddy Maertens, then, like Boonen, the best Belgian sprinter of his day had broken away completely unexpectedly and well before the finish to win Harelbeke. The next day, Boonen, no doubt partly with that tale of Maertens in his mind, imitated the great Belgian sprinter by attacking from way out in the company of T-Mobile's Andreas Klier. The final sprint was a formality for the Belgian and his spirits were raised considerably before the crucial Tour of Flanders. In 'De Ronde' today, Boonen showed, as he did at Harelbeke, that he is so much more than a specialist sprinter by taking his first major Classics win with an attack from a small group containing some notable names eight kilometres from the finish. Responding to an attack from two-time Flanders winner Peter van Petegem, Boonen got on the Davitamon-Lotto rider's wheel and then delivered a thrust of his own. No one ever looked like catching the 24-year-old Quick Step rider, who has now firmly established himself as the successor to his now retired former team-mate Johan Museeuw, who won this race three times. As at Harelbeke, it was Klier who took second place, with Van Petegem winning the sprint for third ahead of Erik Zabel, Roberto Petito and Alessandro Ballan. The race began with the always expected long break of the day, which this year contained six riders, including the in-form Saunier Duval rider Constantino Zaballa and 2004 Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt. Spaniard Zaballa was the last of the sextet to be swept up, in his case by Ballan, who dropped him on the Berendries climb with just under 40km remaining. But the key action was taking place behind the Italian, as Zabel attacked from a large group that included Discovery's George Hincapie and Stijn Devolder, and was soon joined by Van Petegem, team-mate Klier, Petito and Boonen, who looked super strong over the closing bergs. Clearly, though, the speedy Belgian had some doubts about the final sprint in Meerbeke, as he confirmed afterwards. "I didn't want to wait," he explained about his late attack. "I couldn't win against Zabel and a team-mate, I had to attack. I simply couldn't risk a sprint with Zabel and Van Petegem." Asked about comparisons with Museeuw, Boonen responded: "There are none, we are completely different riders. I have been lucky enough to win Flanders earlier than he did, and winning this race has particularly significance for me. This is my country, my roads, my fans. But my heart is now looking towards Paris-Roubaix." Backstedt, Hincapie and the rest have been warned. 1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 256km in 6.22.48 (40.13kph) 2 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile 0.33 3 Peter van Petegem (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 0.40 4 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile 5 Roberto Petito (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 6 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 7 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 1.42 8 Leon van Bon (Hol) Davitamon-Lotto 9 Sergei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile 10 Vladimir Goussev (Rus) CSC 16 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 2.04 28 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 29 Frank Hoj (Den) Gerolsteiner 3.25 47 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 6.25 52 Roger Hammond (GB) Discovery Channel 54 Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC 81 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Crdit Agricole 13.19 ProTour standings after Flanders 1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 93 2 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 78 3 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner 70 4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 62 5 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 50 6 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile 41 7 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears 41 8 Peter van Petegem (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 35 9 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 35 10 Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) Phonak 35
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