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The morning after Tom Boonen bowed out of the Tour de France with injuries sustained in a nightmare run of three crashes in six days, the Belgian sprinter's Quick Step team announced that he would be back in action at the Hamburg Hew Cyclassics on July 31.
Boonen's injuries were examined yesterday by Dr Van den Bogaert in the Herentals clinic near Antwerp, Belgium. Van den Bogaert diagnosed lesions to the lateral area of Boonen's right knee-cap, with internal bleeding. The main joints of his right knee, said the doctor, had suffered no functional damage.
According to Quick Step, Boonen will now rest for three days before beginning his rehabilitation. His post-Tour race programme will remain unchanged, taking the 24 year old to the world championships in Madrid on September 25 via the Vuelta a Espa¤a.
After Boonen's withdrawal yesterday and Thor Hushovd's elevation to the top of the points competition, the race within a race to be wearing the green jersey in Paris was once again thrown wide open.
Previously resigned to losing the title he earned for the second time last year, two-time stage winner Robbie McEwen, for one, is suddenly back in the hunt. Trailing Hushovd by 35 points, the equivalent of a stage victory, the Davitamon-Lotto fastman admitted before Friday's 13th stage that his hopes, albeit faint, of a third green jersey have been revived.
"Stage wins are still my priority but I don't want to give away any gifts," McEwen commented. "On a hard day like yesterday [Thursday], you ideally want to contain your points deficit to an acceptable number and take advantage of the easier days to make up some ground. I'm afraid that there will only be one more bunch sprint, and that will be in Paris.
"It's not always the best sprinter who wins the green jersey, but the most consistent," McEwen continued. "That means that you sometimes have to get into breakaways. That's why it's such a hard competition to win."
At just 22 points behind McEwen, Stuart O'Grady is now perhaps the most dangerous and certainly the most bullish of Hushovd's rivals. "Now I need to be aggressive, vigilant and try to get myself into some breakaways," said the Cofidis man on Thursday night.
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