The latest edition of the world’s best cycling magazine is now available in UK shops. Cycle Sport May features an exclusive, in-depth interview with Classics king Tom Boonen, who is lining up to try and repeat his extraordinary run of wins in 2012. We’ve also spoken with perennial Dutch Grand Tour contender Robert Gesink about his ambition to reach the Tour podium, and Sky’s Peter Kennaugh, about the pressures of success and expectation. We’ve investigated the renaissance of French cycling, caught up with Heinrich Haussler, Luke Durbridge and Roxane Knetemann, and looked at the exciting start to 2013. Cycle Sport is in UK shops now.

Words by Cycle Sport staff

Friday March 15 2013

Mister Tom, by Richard Moore

We’ve never seen a Classics campaign like it, not even in the days of Eddy Merckx. Tom Boonen’s brilliant quartet of cobbled Classics wins last year – E3, Ghent-Wevelgem, Flanders and Roubaix – was an astonishing achievement. Will he be able to replicate it in 2013? Probably not, but just to have won one Classic is usually enough to make a rider’s career. Boonen’s won several.

Richard Moore spoke to Boonen at the start of the season, and observed him first-hand at the Tour of Oman. 2013’s been a bit more challenging so far than 2012. An innocuous crash in which he scraped his elbow led to an infection which could have cost him severely. “Eight hours” was how close he came to losing his arm. And with that news came the overwhelming force of the cycling-mad Flemish media. As Moore writes, “Some athletes can, at a certain point, be deemed so important that their body parts become mythologised. The list might include David Beckham’s metatarsal, Evander Holyfield’s ear and Usain Bolt’s hamstring. To this list, in Belgium at least, can now be added Tom Boonen’s elbow.”

Boonen is a relaxed and mature individual, who has survived growing up in the public eye, and emerged as a popular and likeable professional. He talks about his aims for 2013, his plans to race for Mark Cavendish at the Tour and how moving temporarily back into his parents’ house before the Classics last year put him in the right frame of mind for them.

ALSO IN THE MAGAZINE…

Blanco Slate, by Kenny Pryde

When Robert Gesink turned professional in 2007, he was immediately able to compete at the highest level. He was eighth in that year’s Flèche Wallonne, fifth in the Tour of Germany and second in the Tour of Poland – precocious results for a rider who turned 21 in May that year. He was seventh in his debut Grand Tour, the Vuelta, the following season.

Since when, he’s more or less remained at exactly the same level. He’s consistently in the top 10 of stage races and Grand Tours (notwithstanding a disturbing propensity to crash and damage himself), but has rarely won. Despite finishing in the top 15 of 30 stage races, he’s only actually won two – the 2011 Tour of Oman and 2012 Tour of California. Is he doomed to a career of consistency but not brilliance? And will he ever win a Grand Tour? Kenny Pryde listened to the Dutchman explain his long road back to confidence and fitness following the death of his father and a serious leg break at the end of 2011.

France: where did it all go right? By Kenny Pryde

Remember when cycling fans, egged on by Francophobe-in-chief Lance Armstrong, criticised French riders for not training hard enough? It turns out the French were training as hard as anybody, but a lost generation of racers were denied their rightful glory by the institutionalised cheating perpetrated by people like Armstrong.

Now, coincident with the biological passport having made it more difficult to cheat using blood boosting methods, French riders are winning races again, and 2013 may be their best season for many years. They head the win rankings by country, with a talented cohort of riders coming through. Nacer Bouhanni, Thibaut Pinot, Pierre Rolland and others are competing on a more level playing field, and are winning at the highest level. How long before we see a French rider breaking the 17-year victory drought at the Tour de France?

Growing pains, by Andy McGrath

When the formation of Team Sky was officially announced, in late 2009, manager David Brailsford announced it was his intention to win the Tour de France with a British rider within five years. Many in the press felt that five years might have been optimistic, but we were almost unanimous in thinking that seven years would be possible, and that the most likely rider to be the first British Tour winner was Peter Kennaugh. The pressure’s off Kennaugh now, since Bradley Wiggins came in two years ahead of schedule. But the cycling world is still waiting for Kennaugh’s big breakthrough on the road. He took a near-sabbatical on the road in 2012, with the small matter of an Olympic gold medal in the team pursuit, but now he is fully focused on developing in the stage races.

Kennaugh’s a live wire, a confident and opinionated young rider who treads the fine line between confidence and cockiness. He enjoys a drink, sometimes too much, but he knows that now the Olympics are done, it’s time to focus on the road and fulfil the potential he showed before he turned pro.

Destiny’s daughter, by Richard Moore

It’s a name synonymous with the Seventies and a golden age of Dutch cycling: Knetemann, as in Gerrie, a rider who, from his tinted glasses to his permed hair and headband, couldn’t have looked more Dutch or more Seventies if he had been dressed head-to-toe in orange, sipping a botlle of Heineken and smoking weed in an Amsterdam café. For sure.

Now a younger Knetemann is racing at the very top level: Roxane Knetemann, daughter of Gerrie. Richard Moore interviewed the Dutchwoman at the Tour of Qatar for an honest, open and sometimes painful look back at how her father’s death soured her relationship with cycling, and then how watching Marianne Vos, a rider she’d beaten as a junior, winning an Olympic gold medal in Beijing aroused feelings of jealousy so strong that she shelved plans to give up cycling and renewed her passion and love for the sport. Now she’s riding for the Rabobank team, supporting Vos, and enjoying her racing more than ever.

Going global, by Richard Moore

The 2013 Tours of Qatar and Oman both saw British winners, in Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome. That in itself was newsworthy, but there is so much more to bike racing than race results and winners’ lists. Richard Moore went to both races and sent us this eyewitness account of the atmosphere, landscape, culture and local impact.

”Kumail, a 24-year-old Saudi Arabian, stood on the Corniche in Doha with his backpack and his camera. He had driven four hours from his home city, Dammam, to watch the final stage of the Tour of Qatar, and the following week he would make a 12-hour drive to Muscat to see the last two stages of the Tour of Oman. His knowledge of cycling was detailed in places and sketchy in others. He knew about Alberto Contador and Mark Cavendish, but didn’t understand why the riders who’d finished behind Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France were not upgraded to winner. Where do you start?”

Heinrich’s manoeuvres, by Richard Moore

In 2009, Heinrich Haussler was one of the riders of the season. He did everything but win Milan-San Remo, having been caught just centimetres before the line by Mark Cavendish’s desperate sprint, then followed up with second in the Tour of Flanders, seventh in Paris-Roubaix and a memorable stage win at the Tour de France. At 25, he looked like he had a glittering career in front of him. Since when, he’s stumbled between injury, poor form and disappointment. Now riding for the brand-new Swiss team IAM, Haussler is hoping to get his career back on track. He tells us about how five hours of cross-country ski-ing a day in the off-season and his new team have revitalised his ambitions.

Time for the Turbo, by Sophie Smith

In his first year as a professional, in 2012, Luke Durbridge won five major international races, the best performance by an Australian neo-pro since Robbie McEwen won six in 1996. Durbridge also shared wins in the Eneco Tour TTT and Duo Normand, and won the national time trial championships. 2012 was not a one-off either, he’s already a double national champion. The interesting thing about Durbridge is that he bucks the stereotype of the Australian world traveller – he’s a committed homebody who relishes his mid-season trips back home. He’s also one of the most promising young professionals in the peloton, who is set to be a strong outsider at the world time trial championships this year.

I love 1991, by Edward Pickering

Cycle Sport’s nostalgic look-back at the sport’s most memorable seasons has a look at 1991, the year of Miguel Indurain’s first Tour de France win, a spectacular coup by Claudio Chiappucci at Milan-San Remo, and popular home Classics wins for Edwig Van Hooydonck at the Tour of Flanders and Marc Madiot at Paris-Roubaix. All three Grand Tours in 1991 produced unexpected, first-time, winners – Melchor Mauri in the Vuelta, Franco Chioccioli in the Giro and Indurain at the Tour. It was a new era in cycling.

Plus…All our regular features – Graham Watson shares his best pictures from Qatar, Oman and Het Nieuwsblad; Shop Window features the latest cycling bling; Broomwagon lists his top 10 names that make him giggle like a schoolchild, including Bryan Coquard, Christian Poos, Mathieu Sprick and Yannick Talabardon; Q&A with Marco Pinotti (“Everyone has a bit of Berlusconi in them”); Clash of the sprinters; Stuff we like; Team of the month; the Tour-ometer; Geraint on just missing out at Het Nieuwsblad; spurious chat in Post-Race Banter; Top 10 unpronounceable names; excellent writing and photography and much much more.

Cycle Sport May, featuring the very best writing and photography of professional cycling, is available now in the UK, and will be on sale in the USA shortly. It is also available electronically through Zinio.

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  • Omar

    The best Classics rider ever? Easy Eddy Merckx.

    Mr. Boonen has a remarkable 2012 Spring (and has achieved beyond that), but nothing compared to the dominance of Merckx.

  • Omar

    Tom Boonen is a beast and has achieved a lot, but how can you even consider him as “The best Classics rider ever? He doesn’t even come close to Eddy Merckx…who won ALL monuments more than once.

  • Christophe Boval

    Tom Boonen the best Classics rider ever? You must be kidding ! I think he even never took the start in Liège and il Lombardia, two monuments. He is the best cobblestone Classic rider, no less but surely no more either