Tom Boonen put himself on top of the Milan-San Remo favourites list with his win at Tirreno-Adriatico today in Montecatini Terme, Italy.
“I think even without the victory I was already a big favourite,” Boonen said. “In the peloton it is almost impossible to hide. You can try but we know each other after a period. If you are already trying to beat each other for a number of years then you can tell when the others are going well or not.”
The sprint win ahead of Paul Martens (Rabobank) and Daniele Bennati (Liquigas-Doimo), though, was the first time Boonen raised his arms in a victory salute on Italian soil. The first time a Belgian won in Tirreno-Adriatico since Dirk De Wolf in 1991.
“I have only raced San Remo eight times and this is only the third time for me to race Tirreno, so it is not easy [to win in Italy]. Also, our Quick Step team seldom races in Italy.”
Quick Step did today and Boonen, 29, grabbed the chance to add a Tirreno-Adriatico stage to his list of palmarès that includes the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and the World Championships.
He benefited from Italian team Liquigas, who took control on the last of four circuits around Montecatini after the day’s escape group was caught. Boonen fought off Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) in the final kilometre to slot in on the wheel of Liquigas’ Daniele Bennati and right in front of Robbie McEwen (Katusha).
His charge held off Germany’s Martens and made for win number four of the season.
“It is not easy to win stages in Tirreno,” Boonen continued. “Everyone is here in good shape trying to do the last build up for San Remo. All the Italians are super motivated, that is why it is not easy to win here.
“This circuit was not easy and the sprint was uphill. Liquigas took control in the last three to four kilometres, so I told my team-mates to stay behind and I would take the wheel of Bennati. On the last curve there were only three ahead. I started a little earlier than him; I arrived well, a little stronger.”
German Linus Gerdemann (Milram) held on comfortably to remain in the leader’s blue jersey.
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia), last year’s San Remo winner, saw Boonen celebrating on the podium when he crossed the finish line 9’34” later in the last group with 11 others. Cavendish lost contact with his sprint rivals on the 200-metre climb in the second of four finishing circuits.
With only nine days remaining and Cavendish struggling, Boonen clearly has the title of ‘San Remo favourite’.
Tirreno Adriatico stage two; Montecatinie Terme – Montecatinie Terme 165km
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep in 4-14-13
2. Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank
3. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
4. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha
5. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Esp) Caisse d’Epargne
6. Francesco Ginanni (Ita) Androni-Diquigiovanni
7. Sacha Modolo (Ita) CSF Colnago
8. Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese
9. Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
10. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana all at same time.
41. Roger Hammond (GB) Cervelo
107. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at same time
165. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 9-34
166. Ian Stannard (GB) Team Sky at same time
Overall classification after stage two
1. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram in 7-50-18
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step at same time
3. Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 4secs
4. Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank at 4secs
5. Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 4secs
6. Matti Breschel (Den) Saxo Bank at 6secs
7. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo at 6secs
8. Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Milram at 8secs
9. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 9secs
10. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 10secs
30. Roger Hammond (GB) Cervelo at 10secs
92. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 10secs
159. Ian Stannard (GB) Team Sky at 10-45
169. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 14-43