Tom Boonen says he is determined to get a great result at Paris-Roubaix. After missing out on Flanders, that can only mean one thing: winning.
Speaking at a packed press conference at the Quick Step team hotel, Boonen was as relaxed and as confident as ever before Paris-Roubaix. More relaxed than ever, in fact - or so he claimed.
?The only reason I?m not 110 percent motivated is that mathematically it?s not possible.? he told journalists with a grin. ?Only 100 percent.?
Was he annoyed about the questions about Stijn Devolder and whether he could upstage Boonen on Sunday as he did at Flanders?
?Nope, it?s your [the journalists] job to ask stupid questions, and then I make stupid answers. Then you run off with my stupid answer and ask somebody about it and we all go round and round in circles. It?s a game.?
Quick Step?s policy, at least the one for the public, is clear in any case: ?Tom is the leader and Stijn will be ?team joker?.? sports director Wilfried Peeters added. ?The aim is to keep our rivals guessing.?
Boonen and his team-mate Devolder talked to the press after the traditional reconnaissance of the pave carried out on Friday morning. The Quick Step team rode from just before Arenberg before stopping at Cysoing, six sectors from the finish.
Conditions are still dry and clear near the cobbled sections, although diehard Roubaix fans will be pleased to hear heavy rain is predicted for Sunday.
(Teams are reported to be in serious doubt as to what bikes they will be using on Sunday. On Friday evening it was raining in Compeigne but dry further north.)
But back to Boonen. Will he bounce back from a week where he?s failed (for whatever reason) to live up to expectations?
?I was very strong at Flanders.? Boonen replied, bristling slightly. ?Everybody could see that. But that doesn?t mean I?ll win on Sunday either. You can?t go up to your rivals and say ?hey, I?ve been training hard, let me win.? Everybody wants to be first.?
?Then again, you can?t be selfish in bike racing. Sometimes team tactics dictate that another rider wins.?
?It?s true I haven?t won as many races as other years, but that?s circumstances, nothing more. Last year I won two of the build-up races to Flanders, at Kuurne and Harelbeke, but that was only because I had to sprint in the last 500 metres. This year I?m feeling stronger, and I haven?t won so much.?
Asked about his rivals, he said that he thought 2006 winner Fabian Cancellara was not in such good shape. ?But that?s logical after such a strong early season, and winning Tirreno and Milan-San Remo.?
Devolder played his role of loyal team lieutenant brilliantly, even if he has different ideas about what he will do on Sunday.
?Even if Tom doesn?t win, he remains a super-star.? he argued. ?Just look at his palmares.?
?We?re both ready for Roubaix.? But for all Quick Step claim the contrary, the questionmark over who is really team leader continues to hang in the air. After the way Devolder won Flanders, and with so much at stake for Boonen in Paris-Roubaix, is that really such a surprise?
Quick Step?s line up for Paris-Roubaix:Tom Boonen, Wilfried Cretskens, Steven De Jongh, Stijn Devolder, Kevin Hulsmans, Matteo Tosatto, Wouter Weylandt, Maarten Wynants.
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