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Boonen Saves His Spring

Tom Boonen's success in the Classics is about as newsworthy and well-documented as any one rider's exploits anywhere in Cycling. Not that it's more than of passing interest outside of Belgium, a few neighborhoods in Nord-Pas de Calais, and at least one household in Monaco, but it's still fun to see what the biggest star of one-day Cycling is really up to. Also, there are a few dozen nervous VDS players who are obsessing over the fact. So how does his 2008 campaign rate so far? With the help of Cycling Quotient, as always, let's break it down!

The method here is both a subjective and scoring-based assessment of his results at the races he tends to include each year in his spring campaign. Scores say a lot, but in Boonen's case they can be imprecise at times. Anyway, follow along and you'll see.

Het Volk:
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: 9th
Milan-San Remo: 75th
Dwars door Vlaanderen: 28th
E3 Prijs Vlaanderen: WON
Ronde van Vlaanderen: 25th
Gent-Wevelgem: WON
Paris-Roubaix: 9th
Scheldeprijs: WON

Cycling Quotient Points: 528

Analysis: Boonen announces his presence with authority. E3 Prijs is a pretty good predictor of success at de Ronde, so he had to know he was in for a great spring pretty soon.

Het Volk:
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: 22nd
Milan-San Remo: 8th
Dwars door Vlaanderen: DNS
E3 Prijs Vlaanderen: WON
Ronde van Vlaanderen: WON
Gent-Wevelgem: 26th
Paris-Roubaix: WON
Scheldeprijs: 4th

Cycling Quotient Points: 854

Analysis: Widely considered Boonen's golden year, since fans place such emphasis on Flanders and Roubaix. Boonen's transition from up-and-comer to champion is sealed by a brilliant campaign, obviously through something like ideal preparation. Outside Flanders, Roubaix, and E3 Prijs, his results are uninteresting. At MSR he couldn't make a dent in the Fassa Bortolo Petacchi Express -- forgivable -- and he probably held back at Gent. If he didn't win everything, it's probably because he was limiting his focus on the big prizes.

Het Volk:
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: 3rd
Milan-San Remo: 4th
Dwars door Vlaanderen: 5th
E3 Prijs Vlaanderen: WON
Ronde van Vlaanderen: WON
Gent-Wevelgem: 117
Paris-Roubaix: 2nd
Scheldeprijs: WON

Cycling Quotient Points: 959

Analysis: His highest points... but I'd still rate it second behind his 2005 spring campaign. He should've been fifth at Roubaix, but for gate-gate, and winning the Scheldeprijs is no consolation. OTOH, he was intending to win MSR, and may well have done so, til his teammate Pozzato stole away with the prize. Anyway, this was a great run for him, and after a world title and hectic offseason, the only disappointment has to be running out of gas just 20km before the Roubaix Velodrome.

Het Volk:
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: WON
Milan-San Remo: 3rd
Dwars door Vlaanderen: WON
E3 Prijs Vlaanderen: WON
Ronde van Vlaanderen: 12th
Gent-Wevelgem: 27th
Paris-Roubaix: 6th
Scheldeprijs: DNS

Cycling Quotient Points: 681

Analysis: No more rainbow stripes, no Flanders, no Roubaix. I'd rate this his worst spring since he joined Quick Step. His three wins were in races he pretty much owned, and he cracked at the Muur... not a pretty sight. Given the hot start, I'd say he was pretty geared up for the Double, but he either lost form too soon or (more likely) just fell victim to the unseasonably hot weather. He'd also had some back issues early on. So even though this wasn't a success by his lofty standards, he's entitled to a mulligan.

Het Volk:
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: 4th
Milan-San Remo: 29th
Dwars door Vlaanderen: 37th
E3 Prijs Vlaanderen: 8th
Ronde van Vlaanderen: 17th
Gent-Wevelgem: 150th
Paris-Roubaix: WON
Scheldeprijs: To be determined...

Cycling Quotient Points: 356 (Max possible: 496)

Analysis: Points-wise, easily his worst spring. But today's victory changes how it must be viewed. Boonen did little in the lesser spring events, and the CW has been that he took a slower approach to building his form, in the hopes of peaking for Flanders and Roubaix, not too soon. I think he pulled it off, and his 17th at de Ronde has to do with his ambivalence toward sprinting for lesser placings, especially when his teammate has bagged the win. He sacrificed his points for Devolder. Given his condition today, I think he was probably every bit as strong as his supporters said at Flanders. In other words, he was ready to do the double, settling instead for a Quick Step double of which he was only half. Given how he looked today, he can't lose the Scheldeprijs if he shows up to win.

People might continue to say Boonen isn't the same rider he was in 2005, but I'm not sure it's true except in the most technical sense -- he's a little different because he's planning his schedule differently. But he hasn't lost anything; indeed, he's in his prime. It hasn't always worked out for him: there are things beyond his control (e.g., 2007 heat wave); teammates on the loose; and an ever-stiffening level of competition. But if people (OK, non-Belgians) can be at all realistic in their expectations for him, they'd have to say he's doing just fine.