Tom Boonen: 'I couldn't just quit after the skull fracture'

The Classics legend says he's looking for the perfect way to bow out of his prolific career

Tom Boonen at the 2016 Paris-Roubaix (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Belgian Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors) says that he could not stop on the heels of fracturing his skull in 2015 Abu Dhabi Tour, that the magical moment will be Paris-Roubaix on April 9.

Boonen, who won the Tour of Flanders three times and Paris-Roubaix four times, will retire when he arrives in the Roubaix velodrome in northern France.

"A lot of circumstances came together," he told Het Nieuwsblad in Argentina, where he is beginning his 2017 campaign.

"I couldn't just quit after the skull fracture. I was not at my normal level the season afterwards. So there had to be another year.

"I never saw myself stopping in the GP Fourmies or a race like that. I wanted to stop on the Roubaix velodrome. I was born a cyclist, and I love that place."

A crash in stage two of the Abu Dhabi Tour scared the cycling world when doctors rushed to examining Boonen's head. They took him to a hospital, where he recovered for a week before flying back to Belgium.

That incident nor Boonen struggling to re-gain fitness through the spring was not the proper final act for a Classics great.

Through 2016 – returning to win RideLondon and the Brussels Cycling Classic, and placing third in the Worlds – Boonen considered retirement.

Just as Bradley Wiggins ended his road career, Boonen as well would ride through to the Hell of the North.

"I'm sixteen years pro' and so very often went away from home. If I call and ask Lore, and ask if our two small men miss me, she says, 'Not really, because you are never home.' They are now at an age when they should see more of daddy."

Watch: Our review of Tom Boonen's 2017 bike, the Specialized Venge Vias

The 36-year-old from Mol will head the powerful Quick-Step Floors team one last time through the Classics with the team's new signee and former world champion, Philippe Gilbert.

Judging by the Tour de San Juan in Argentina, he should have a fruitful spring. He led team-mate Fernando Gaviria to the sprint win on day one and sprinted to victory himself the next day.

It was the first win by a rider on disc brakes in professional cycling.

"Never say never. That's what I learned," Boonen replied when asked if his decision was final.

"There's always doubt, especially if you are still riding well, as I am now. You inevitably think, there's more in the tank.

"And it's true, I could easily go two or three years more. Not at the highest level, but slightly lower. But you have to think it is going to stop at some time, and why not do so at a peak while I still love the bike?"

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