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Tour of Belgium - 2.1

Belgium, May 30-June 3, 2007

Boonen back at home

By Paul Verkuylen

Tom Boonen (Quickstep) finished sixth at Roubaix this year
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Tom Boonen (Quick Step-Innergetic) is returning to competition at his home tour, where he claimed victory in 2005, arguably his most successful season to date. The 2005 world champion is fully recovered from his broken toe that he sustained while out training. "My broken toe doesn't give me any pain anymore," noted the Belgian. "I was training again only a few days later (although) my shin and knee are still causing me some pain, I still can't train hard and because of this I am behind in my training, so it is important now to start racing again in preparation for the tour."

Boonen is not looking to repeat his dominant performance of a few years ago at this year's edition. "If I can win something here is not important," explained Boonen. "What is important is to sharpen my form for July. We have a strong team here, and if I can help a team mate win, I will".

One rider who is out to repeat his performance at the event is Maarten Tjallingii, the overall winner from 2006. The Netherlands rider lead from start to finish last year, winning the first stage by attacking a lead group containing Boonen and four Quick Step team mates. "It was a bit of a surprise," said Tjallingii, who is again riding for the Skil-Shimano team. "When you are sitting in a group with so much fire power from one team, attacking is the only way that you are going to win".

Last year's jersey winners
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From the names on the start list you can see that the Tour of Belgium is important for Skil-Shimano, only its strongest and most experienced riders are taking part. The squad's 'A Team' is a powerful weapon according to Tjallingii. "In Dunkerque we showed we are serious contenders and if we want to win we need a strong team," he noted. "I have been dreaming about winning this race again."

With riders like Maarten Den Bakker and Aart Vierhouten, Skil-Shimano is certainly not lacking any experience and will be a force at this year's race.

The Tour of Belgium gets under way on May 30 in the sea side town of Oostende. Starting with a flat stage made for the sprinters, watch out for riders like Tom Steels (Predictor-Lotto) and Gerben Lowik (Rabobank).

Next it will make its way to Buggenhout over the famous climbs of the Muur van Geraardsbergen, the Bosberg, the Berendries and the Tenbosse for what should be a stage for the more 'classic' riders, but may be held together by the sprinters' teams courtesy of three sprints along the road for the Nissan Sprint Classification.

The 16.7 kilometres Time Trial through the streets of Herzele should be a display of power for the chrono (time) experts, but may not sort out the general classification enough to make a difference before the tough fourth stage.

Stage 4 is one for the climbers. The most difficult stage of the tour takes in the Côte de la Redoute en de Chambralles, among others, on its way to Aywaille. On La Redoute, made famous by its race defining role in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, watch out for riders looking to hone their form for their respective national championships in June and the Tour de France.

The traditional tour finish on the Mechelbaan in Putte should once again make for an exciting finale. Watch out for last year's final stage winner Gert Steegmans (Quickstep - Innergetic) or Gorik Gardeyn (Unibet.com), who won the national Sluitingsprijs here last October ahead of Benny De Schrooder (Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen) and Andy Capelle (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner).