Has anyone ever won five of six stages and lost an overall title to a guy who didn't win any stages? "Ever" is a long time, so the answer is probably yes, but Tom Boonen's assault on Qatar is remarkable for what he both did and did not do.
Today's result: another sprint victory for Torpedo Tom over Alessandro Petacchi, Graeme Brown, and the rest. Tommeke basked in the glow, even while his teammate Cretskens was pulling on the last yellow jersey...
Nice thighs, right Ellie? And where exactly is this Boonen business going? on the flip...
Let's run down the reasons the peloton should be frightened of Boonen's early prowess, and a few reasons not to worry as well.
- Tom Boonen has been a dominant early-season force for two years, winning three of his four Monument targets and scads of other semi-classics. And now he's heading into his prime.
- Boonen looks like he's got the same form he had last year at this time, and although he faded about a week too soon, last year wasn't a bad benchmark, eh?
- Boonen is a gamer. By all appearances, he takes his preparation very seriously, and he doesn't tire of winning. No gifts, as some would say.
- Subtract the weight of the rainbow jersey, and things should only get better.
A few reasons not to get ahead of ourselves...
- He's mortal. Remember how Cancellara just powered away from him? Maybe another way of putting this is, he's not the only immortal.
- Qatar means nothing. It's a payday, that's it.
- Last year he hit the ground running just as early, and faded too soon. Arguably he's on the same track now.
- Boonen seems intent on going for Milan-San Remo, which could further deplete his emotional/physical energy.
I still expect him to be a heavy favorite for Flanders, but we'll have to watch him closely to see if he can extend his trademark spring run any further.