WILL TOM BOONEN WIN AGAIN?
Tom Boonen's woes continue. On home soil in Ghent the Belgian couldn’t even get past his team-mate Gert Steegmans after two thirds of the peloton had been halted by a crash in the final couple of kilometres.
Steegmans, nominally the lead-out man, cruised to the line, expecting his boss to cruise past any second. But on his right, the former world champion huffed and puffed like an old diesel, willing his legs to produce more but being denied the request.
It’s now more than two years since Belgian last won a stage of the Tour de France. That year he won two in a row – at Les Essart and Tours – in the first week before crashing on the eve of the Alps and pulling out.
Last year he drew a blank day after day, cutting an increasingly frustrated figure despite a spell in yellow as Robbie McEwen got the better of him.
Even with so many riders ruled out directly by the crash, or slowed by it, and with several Quick Step team-mates to help, Boonen struggled.
The spin may have been that the stage win was a gift for a loyal team-mate but that’s unlikely to hold much water.
Boonen has the green jersey as consolation but the big question is whether he can actually get a stage or whether he’s in for another week of heart-breaking near misses.
He has clocked up nine wins this season but his last ProTour victory was in the Tour de Benelux last August.
That’s a pretty barren run of defeats for a man who made sprinting look so easy during an 18-month purple patch that brought him Tour stages, Classics and the world title.
BOONEN’S TOUR RUN
Finishing positions in bunch sprints for first place since his last Tour stage win in 2005
Stage 2 – 2nd behind Gert Steegmans (Gent)
Stage 1 – 3rd behind Thor Hushovd (Canterbury)
Stage 12 – 5th
Stage 9 – 4th
Stage 6 – 3rd
Stage 5 – 2nd
Stage 4 – 4th
Stage 2 – 2nd
Stage 1 – 13th
Stage 5 – 2nd