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"Mark tried to lead me but I took the corner around 8th place, too far to try to win. However I think I had a good preparation here in Argentina. I think I'm in better condition than what I was expecting at this time of the season,...

Photo: OPQS / Tim De Waele

MARK CAVENDISH

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27.01.2014 @ 12:21 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Omega Pharma-Quick Step again chose to play the card of Tom Boonen in the uphill sprint on the final stage of the Tour de San Luis but despite support from Mark Cavendish he started his sprint from too far back and could only finish 9th. However, he remains upbeat about his condition and has now set his sights on the Tour of Qatar.

 

What a difference 12 months can do! At this time last year, Tom Boonen was at home in Belgium, recovering from an elbow infection that nearly cost him his arm and missed his early season races, the Tour de San Luis and the Tour de Qatar. This year Boonen is showing splendid condition in the roads in Argentina, suggesting that he may return to the level that allowed him to conquer all the major cobbled classics in 2012.

 

However, the race didn't end as Boonen had hoped. Having already finished 3rd in the uphill sprint on stage 3, Boonen was keen to see what he could do in the even harder finish to yesterday's final stage. Again the team chose to support their classics captain, with Mark Cavendish playing the rare role of lead-out man.

 

However, the team lost Alessandro Petacchi on stage 1 as the Italian had to head home due to stomach problems. This left the team short in numbers and as Boonen was badly positioned he could only take 9th in the final sprint.

 

"Today it was important to be in the first three or four positions at the last corner at about 300 meters to go," he said. "Unfortunately we didn't find the space to go up to the front in the last kilometre. Mark tried to lead me but I took the corner around 8th place, too far back to try to win."

 

Boonen has, however, shown very good condition and even finished 7th in Friday's time trial. If one adds some solid performances in the mountains that have allowed him to end the race as a respectable 63rd in the mountainous race, we may see Boonen back to his best in the classics later this year.

 

"However, I think I had a good preparation here in Argentina," he said. "I think I'm in better condition than what I was expecting at this time of the season. Now I will go back to Europe and I will immediately go to Mallorca for a short training session, then I will leave for the Tour of Qatar. I'm really looking forward to that race that brought me great results in the past."
 

Boonen has won the race in the Middle East 4 times and has 20 stage wins on his palmares.

 

Cavendish said the team lacked numbers in the finale.

 

"Today we tried our best," Cavendish said. "Guillaume [Van Keirsbulck] went really well in the last kilometres. But we really ran out of men. We missed Alessandro Petacchi in the last kilometer. I tried to take Tom alone, but unfortunately it didn't work out. But we're happy with the week. Although we haven't got a stage win, things went well. We've got good form and we've got good cohesion in the team."

 

Cavendish will next do the Dubai Tour.

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