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Tom Boonen: ‘In one season I did all of Mathieu van der Poel’s entire career of results’

Tom Boonen: ‘In one season I did all of Mathieu van der Poel’s entire career of results’

Tom Boonen retired in 2017, after a remarkable career. The Belgian cyclist amassed an impressive tally of 122 professional victories. He recently gave an interview with Het Nieuwsblad, and provided insights into the present generation of cyclists and the distinctions between the current era and what he fondly refers to as “his time”. The former world champion gave some candid opinions about then and now, what’s changed, and what it would be like if he raced in the current era.

“I would have liked to have raced against today’s guys. Attacking from afar, doing something ‘crazy’, that would match well with my way of racing,” Boonen said.
He also says that the current generation has things laid out for them–their diet and training plans, which is helpful for a pro.

Pros have better support

“On the first day of the year, riders of Visma – Lease a Bike, for example, that they will be told to be at five per cent fat on April 1. That gives you peace of mind. For me, it was still: plan your own food, arrange your own physiotherapist,” he said. “Also because I was too proud to be helped too much. Now I think: why have I been so stupid not to see that you can actually get better by being guided by others.”
That guidance is much better now than it was then. At Quick-Step at the time, Boonen said that science and planning were coming along, but not quite there yet. “The knowledge was already there, but now they can apply it better. With us it was really still: taking in sixty grams of sugar per hour, the body couldn’t process more. In the meantime, it is almost twice as much,” he added. “Riders are now also on weight all year round. With us, the idea was that you had to ‘train yourself skinny’. I’ve actually been hungry for ten years.”

Far less races

The number of races that riders ride has also changed compared to the past. “All in all, today’s riders don’t race much. While I had a year in which I already had 40 race days before Paris – Roubaix. Now that’s a season. To put it bluntly: the palmares of today, there is not that much on them. Not even with a champion like Mathieu van der Poel. I rode that in one season,” Boonen joked.

Are today’s pro cyclists more sportspersonlike than 20 years ago?

He also spoke on a topic which was recently raised by Lance Armstrong. The American noticed that riders were far friendlier to each other after races, even if rivals.

A notable change in the next gen


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