Tom Boonen (Quick Step) confirmed that he will be the sprinter to beat at the Vuelta Espana – which starts next Saturday – by taking his second stage win at the Eneco Tour on Sunday.
Racing on home roads as the eight-day tour headed into Belgium for the second half of the race, Boonen won again showing his immense power and speed in the final kilometre.
He jumped on the wheel of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Columbia) and then accelerated to the line. Kenny Van Hummel (Skil-Shimano) was second and Boasson Hagen third. Roger Hammond (Columbia) and Jeremy Hunt (Credit Agricole) were again in the results, with Hammond 12th and Hunt 16th in the sprint.
It was Boonen?s fifth win since testing positive for cocaine in May. He escaped suspension because cocaine is not regarded as a banned substance by the UCI when found in out-of-competition tests. After missing the Tour de France because of the positive test, Boonen now seems to be back to his past and is targeting several major objectives in the final months of the season. As he had already announced, Boonen pulled out of the Eneco Tour after winning Sunday?s stage and began to get ready for the Vuelta.
?Now I can eat a piece of cake to celebrate my brother?s birthday and then I?ll rest up for a few days before packing my suitcases for the Vuelta,? he said.
?The team did a fantastic job today and I am really pleased with these past five days at the Eneco Tour. I?m right on target?.
?I feel I?m on track and racing here has been good for my moral. Now I want to win sprints in the Vuelta. I?d also like to win the Paris-Tours classic for the first time and then there is the world championship road race in Italy. In my opinion the Varese route isn?t any harder than in Madrid 2005 (when Boonen won). I?m confident I can ride well.?
GREIPEL TAKES RACE LEAD
Germany?s Andre Greipel (Columbia) is the new overall race leader at the Eneco Tour after gaining some precious bonus seconds in intermediate sprints while in the long breakaway during the stage. Greipel leads team mate Boasson Hagen by two seconds, with Boonen third at seven seconds.
?It was a long day for me because I don?t usually go in breakaways but it was worth it. Now I?ve got the leader?s jersey. This is a ProTour race and so it?s pretty important I don?t think I can win the race because of the final time trial but with Boasson Hagen in second just behind me, the team is in the best possible position for the final stages,? Greipel said.
?I?m still feeling good and so hopefully I can win the sprint on Monday as well and take another stage victory.?
The Eneco Tour heads out to the Belgian coast on Monday for the 167km stage five between Ardooie and Oostende. Expect another sprint finish.
ENECO TOUR 2008: STAGE FOUR RESULTS
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 213km in 5hrd 00mins 35secs
2. Kenny Robert Van Hummel (Ned) Skil-Shimano
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Columbia
4. Borut Bozic (Slo) Cycle Collstrop
5. Matti Breschel (Den) CSC-Saxo Bank
6. Jürgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence-Lotto
7. Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Bouygues Telecom
8. Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas
9. Elia Rigotto (Ita) Team Milram
10. Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Credit Agricole all same time.
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE FOUR
1. André Greipel (Ger) Columbia
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Columbia at 2secs
3. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step at 7secs
4. José Iván Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 9secs
5. Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Credit Agricole at 10secs
6. Jürgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence-Lotto at 11secs
7. Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quick Step at 13secs
8. Michael Rogers (Aus) Columbia at 15secs
9. Koen De Kort (Ned) Astana
10. Marlon Alirio Perez Arango (Col) Caisse d’Epargne all same time.
Daniele Bennati in the leader’s jersey on stage four
Columbia’s Andre Greipel in action
Andre Greipel took the race lead from Daniele Bennati
Tom Boonen takes his second stage of the 2008 Eneco Tour
Tom Boonen on the podium
Photos by Luc Claessen