Tom Boonen’s world championship victory will doubtless spark another bout of “Boonen-mania” in Belgi
MADRID – As Tom Boonen crossed the line with arms aloft and face aglow, the watching Belgian press pack couldn’t help but look like their world had ended in Madrid on Sunday afternoon. Ever since arriving in the Spanish capital earlier this week, there had been one result which they were all fearing. A Boonen victory would please them on a personal and patriotic level, but professionally it would be a disaster. “I have to do seventeen pages tomorrow,” huffed one Flemish correspondent. “There’ll want me to phone his mum, his dad and probably his dogs as well.” First and most important, of course, was what came from the horse’s mouth. Speaking in his post-race press conference tonight, Boonen said that his performance today was the perfect riposte to those had criticised him during the recent Vuelta a Espana. As if inflicting several hours of overtime upon his compatriots from the Belgian media wasn’t enough. “It’s much more important to win a world championship than four stages in the Vuelta a Espana,” said Boonen. “When I was being criticised, I knew that I was preparing well and that I was motivated. At the beginning of the season, my goal was to win the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. I realised that objective, then won two stages at the Tour, but my crash there complicated the build-up to the Worlds. I still always believed that I could do it. “I’ve achieved so much this year that I still struggle to realise what I’ve done,” Boonen continued. “But I’m very strong mentally and if I can maintain that, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t keep on achieving like I have this year.” Boonen went on to explain how Peter Van Petegem had also confounded his detractors. Many had suspected that the Lotto-Davitamon man might work against Boonen, but Van Petegem’s contribution proved vital. “I never had any doubts about Peter,” Boonen cut short. “The atmosphere in the team has been excellent all week. In the last kilometre, Peter and Mario [Aerts, another Lotto-Davitamon rider – Ed.], did everything they could to put me in a perfect position. Alejandro [Valverde] wound it up with three hundred metres to go, and I went two hundred metres out.” Like many people watching the race, Boonen confessed that he had lost sight of Alessandro Petacchi in the closing stages. The 24-year-old Flandrian said that focusing on his own race was crucial. “I saw Petacchi for the last time with two laps to go. I’ve learned that when you base your race strategy on that of another rider, most of the time you lose. You have to believe in yourself and in your team.” Asked, sardonically, how many Italian riders he had seen during the course of today’s race, Boonen grinned and replied “fifty”. This prompted some wry smiles from those who thought they had seen the USA’s Guido Trenti lead out Boonen’s sprint. Trenti, of course, regularly does this job for Boonen when they are racing together in a Quick Step-Innergetic jersey. It is perhaps no coincidence, either, that Trenti’s relationship with Petacchi has been strained since he left Fassa Bortolo at the end of last year. Just don’t count on the Belgians finding room for conspiracy theories anywhere on those seventeen pages.