27 February 2014
This year the cycling season starts on the 1st day of March.
The 67th edition of the Omloop het Nieuwsblad – still called Het Volk
by most people – will lead us from the streets of Ghent to the beautiful characteristic roads of Belgium and then eventually back to Ghent again.
In the upcoming edition we will see the Leberg, Hostellerie, the illustrious Muur van Geraardsbergen, followed by the Valkenberg, Kruisberg, Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Wolvenberg, the Leberg once more, and the Molenberg.
Besides the famous Muur van Geraardsbergen, the Taaienberg
has also become quite a monumental part of the Spring classics.
According to the classics specialist and sprinter Tom Boonen,
the best place where a rider can be on the Taaienberg is at the front.
And so it has become a tradition over the past few years that Boonen
attacks there to “try the legs” and to “check out the competition”.
Every time the riders reach the Taaienberg, many fans
expect that Tornado Tom will create another storm.
The Taaienberg in Belgium / © Cycling.be
This year it will be the 12th start in the Omloop for the 33-year-old.
Not one of the other Omloop het Volk participants is as experienced
as Boonen in what is regarded as the official opening race of the season.
But he has already been presented with quite a few intense warm-up races.
He started off 2014 with the Tour de San Luis, the Tour of Qatar
and the renewed Tour of Oman, which means 19 race days in total.
However, he says he feels good, won two stages in the Tour of Qatar and also
managed to win the points classification. In the final classification
he only had to leave his teammate Niki Terpstra before him.
The “races in the sand” always suit the OPQS-rider well.
He has won an amount of 22 stages in Qatar over the past few years.
Though, last year marked one of the worst times of his career.
Due to multiple accidents and injuries in the first part of the season he was unable to win a race. Then when he finally managed to fight himself back to the top level, a cyste got in the way of his dreams for the rest of 2013. His only victory was in the Tour de Wallonnie in July where he won the second stage.
Tom Boonen attacks on his Taaienberg in 2012 / © Kramon
This year obviously signifies a fresh start for Boonen.
And there are still a few challenging records that he could beat.
A fourth victory in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and a fifth victory in
Paris-Roubaix would make Tom Boonen the new recordholder of the most
prestigious Spring classics. Right now Boonen shares the Ronde record
with Achiel Buysse, Fiorenzo Magni, Eric Leman and Johan Museeuw.
The Gypsy, Roger de Vlaeminck, is the one he currently shares the Paris-
Roubaix record with. But Tom Boonen does not think about those records.
His main focus is to start the races in good shape and be at his best on
the way to the finish. We will probably see “Tommeke”, as his fans call him,
show off his skills on the Taaienberg next Saturday. If the Taaienberg had a race of its own, Boonen would have been – without a doubt – the single recordholder.
So according to tradition, the Taaienberg will be the “Boonenberg” again for a few minutes this Saturday. Then the season has finally started.
Koen de Kort’s 2012 reconnaissance of the Taaienberg