Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) will race into the history books if he wins Paris-Roubaix tomorrow in France. By doing so, he’d only become the second cyclist in history to win the race four times, equalling the record set by Roger De Vlaeminck 35 years ago in 1977.
“Of course, a fourth Roubaix victory would be special. It’d be stupid to say it’s not like that,” the Belgian said in a press conference. “I’ve won three times, which shows I can do it a fourth time.”
Boonen raced to victory in 2005, 2008 and 2009. After knee troubles and cocaine problems, he appears back at his best. So far this season he has won eight times, including E3 Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem and on Sunday, the Tour of Flanders.
Belgian De Vlaeminck ruled the classics in the second half of the 1970s and filled his books with wins Boonen has yet to achieve. He is only one of three riders to win all five of cycling’s monuments: Milan-San Remo, Flanders, Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Lombardy. Boonen, however has tied for a record three wins in Flanders and is a heavy favourite to match De Vlaeminck’s Roubaix record.
“For 35 years, from 1977 to 2012, I have been the only one to win it four times,” De Vlaeminck told Belgium’s Het Nieuwsblad newspaper. “The time is ripe for Boonen.”
De Vlaeminck said that Boonen is likely to match his record after key rival Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) crashed and fractured his collarbone in Flanders.
“I won’t lose a second of sleep. On the contrary, he has proven the strongest classics rider of the last 15 to 20 years.”
Boonen rocketed to Roubaix fame 10 years ago. As a neo-pro working for USPS team-mate George Hincapie, he chased Johan Museeuw and placed third.
“I remember the entire day. It was a day of survival. Guys kept dropping out, but I remained,” Boonen said. “I didn’t expect at that point that’d I go on to win it three times.”