Tom Boonen has become, as he edges toward retirement, the voice of safety in the peloton. That’s especially true when it comes to a dangerous sprint — something Boonen has avoided like the plague for several years.
After all, the man has two little girls now — no sense risking serious injury, brain destruction, an induced coma — that kind of fun stuff. Best leave that to the young, crazy and desperate like Cofidis boxer-sprinter Nacer Bouhanni.
The winner of four Paris-Roubaix rocks was in the news again this week decrying the bad behavior for his fellow pros: “It is especially important that there is a change in mentality among cyclists. There is too much selfishness in the peloton, riders forget that they are responsible for the safety of others.”
Good luck with that, Tom.
Young guys think they’re bullet-proof and invincible or just trust their luck or God or shut their brains off in the last kilometer. They’re really not focused on etiquette, good behavior or letting people jump their train.
Three years ago, Boonen was already warning guys about their bad habits and overly aggressive behavior. “There are real cowboys who shoot their bullets in the wild. Riders who cross the street from left to right or pull at your steer in the middle of a sprint.”
Ahh, the ignorance and ambitions of youth. You want that wheel, you going to have to kill to get it. Boonen has lost enough skin, broken enough bones, missed too many of his favorite races because somebody did something stupid. He’s lost a significant amount of hearing in one ear after a hard crash last year in the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Boonen himself was once a fast man sprinter with six Tour de France stages wins. However, he’s no longer a Wild West cowboy — or boxer. “Nowadays the guys take too big of risks. They push the line sometimes. Even if you have to explain it time after time it is hard to get by the supporters: we have the right to live our own life. When it is too dangerous, I just don’t take part of it.”
Which reminds of us when we walked past Boonen before the start of the final day of the 2016 Tour of California a crit-style sprint stage in and around Sacramento. Somebody asked him if he planned to mix it up in the sprint. His quick answer was had no plans whatsoever to be anywhere near the front of that craziness.
Still, asking your fellow pros to play nice in a sprint is like asking a rookie NFL defensive back trying to make the team not to hit the wide receiver too hard. That’s not going to happen. He’s going to drill that receiver as viciously as possible.
Ain’t nobody acting the gentleman in a Tour de France sprint.