Tom Boonen 'riding as if wearing blinkers' to stay focused on final ride at Paris-Roubaix

The four-time winner is trying to avoid the emotion around his impending retirement

Tom Boonen (Photo: Daniel Gould)

Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors) admits that he is pushing through the madness leading to Sunday's Paris-Roubaix as if wearing blinkers. He will retire after the French Monument, which he already won four times.

>>> Eight things to look out for at Paris-Roubaix

The Belgian raced for the last time on home soil on Wednesday in the Scheldeprijs, which moved the start to his hometown of Mol in celebration.

"Everyone was sympathetic towards me," Boonen explained engulfed by journalists after Scheldeprijs.

"It was really nice to ride the loop around my home in the beginning. This was a tremendously great experience seeing the people, who I can't manage to thank enough.

"But actually, my mind is on Roubaix this Sunday. I'm trying to ride as if wearing blinkers, but it is difficult. Actually, I wasn't that focused in the race."

Boonen snapped into action for team-mate and eventual winner Marcel Kittel and led the blue and white Quick-Step train over the last loop around Schoten.

"Tom Boonen did a good job, as a reward, we got the victory," Kittel explained. "This is his home race, my last race with him before he ends his career, and I am happy we could finish this way."

Race organiser Flanders Classics began the race with a loop by Boonen's school, his childhood home and his current home. The race finished to the west in Antwerp's suburb Schoten.

"That shows how professional he is because I could understand if he just wanted to train and pulled out of the final, but he goes in all. He sacrificed himself."

Kittel won five times: with Argos/Giant-Shimano in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and with Quick-Step in 2016 and 2017.

"I always said that I never had any role models in cycling, except for my father," explained Kittel. "And when I came to the team, and I have to be honest, I never realised what it was like to be with Tom Boonen, and I saw what is going on around him.

"There are not many riders in the peloton who draw so much attention and cheers.

"What always stood out for me was his working attitude. He is an inspiring athlete. He is very focused, and he knows himself very well. That also makes a difference between a very good rider and a great rider. He is a role model for everyone on our team."

Boonen will train around Kortrijk in the coming days, with a recon of Paris-Roubaix's large and dusty cobbles on Friday.

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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.