The triple Paris-Roubaix winner and former world champion took his first victory in his home championship, where he headed a group of 15 riders to the line. Gilbert took second, with Kristof Goddaert (Top Sport Vlaanderen) in third.
“I’m super happy,” Boonen said after the race. “In the last races, starting from the Tour du Dauphine and from then on to the Elektroer, I felt like I was really improving.”
“Today I wasn’t among the top favourites, and I knew that in order to win a race like this one I had to be having a great day and not make any mistakes. I did it.”
One very big question remains – whether Boonen will be showing off his new Belgium national champion colours at this year’s Tour de France, which starts on Saturday (July 4).
Boonen failed an out-of-competition test for cocaine in April – his second cocaine failure in less than a year – and was subsequently barred from riding in this year’s Tour de France by race organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO). Although no formal sanction has been brought against the Quick Step star, ASO feel he has brought the sport into disrepute.
A court decision on whether Boonen should be allowed to ride in this year’s Tour is expected on Tuesday, just four days before the race starts in Monaco.