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"I had mixed feelings on the podium. I saw my brother and father and then I realized that I had prepared myself for a big race for the penultimate time."

Photo: Tinkoff / BettiniPhoto (Graham Watson)

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
18.12.2016 @ 10:28 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Just before the well-deserved break, the 2016 season ended with a big battle for the rainbow jersey in Qatar. Sun, sand and lots of wind were to decide the world title. In an interview with Sporza, protagonists Tom Boonen, Mark Cavendish and Greg Van Avermaet look back at the event.

 

Echelons were predicted in Qatar and they played a key role in the race. 

 

"Everyone knew it would happen, but in the leading group of around 20 riders we had six Belgians. That says it all," Greg Van Avermaet explains.

 

"The Belgians were incredibly strong and rode truly as a team,” said Mark Cavendish. "We wanted to get rid of some riders, but we doubted whether we could drop Cavendish because he was glued to my wheel,” Tom Boonen added.

 

After the windy spectacle, an anticlimax on the local circuit followed. 

 

"That was a procession. With the wind you could not stay away with an early attack," Cavendish remembered. "You did not feel you could accelerate and ride off. It was good in that way, also for Sagan," said Boonen.

 

"I just talked to him about an attack, but Sagan wanted to gamble everything one the sprint,” said Van Avermaet. "There were no allies. Everyone was fast and wanted to do his sprint."

 

About five kilometers from the finish, Niki Terpstra made a move. "I had already looked at him and asked what he would do. I saw him coming from far behind," explained Tom Boonen who is Terpstra’s teammate at Etixx-QuickStep.

 

The attack of Tom Leezer, another Dutchman, 2.5 kilometers from the finish was much smarter. 

 

"Nobody did anything. Had we been riding the whole day for nothing?" said Boonen.

 

"I told Jürgen Roelandts that he had to ride, otherwise Leezer would have become  world champion. Sorry, that sounds maybe a little hard for Tom,” laughed the Belgian leader.

 

"In that sprint I had Sagan and Cavendish on my wheel and from the second row they came with more speed. “

 

"I have not watched the sprint. It still hurts," said Cavendish, who had to leave the worlds title to Peter Sagan after a very exciting sprint.

 

"I had looked at all the other Worlds races and on the right the riders were always boxed in. I gave it one chance in 1,000 that it would open for Sagan on the right that day. I gave it one chance in 1,000 that it would be closed for me on the left that day.

 

"But that day it would open up on the right and would close at the same time on the left. It was inconceivable. I do not understand it.”

 

"I really thought I could beat them in the sprint. I still think so if the sprint had been different," said Tom Boonen.

 

"Tom has many great sprint victories. But with the legs of Sagan and me he will always be in a difficult situation. He can sprint, but he is a specialist for the classics," Cavendish responded.

 

After the finish, the Belgians had a nagging question: Could Greg Van Avermaet not help his teammates more in the final kilometers? "Jürgen did a tremendous effort. He is a top rider," Boonen explained.

 

"Greg did not join us. After the finish, I've been cautious in my comments. But you cannot finish 3rd and 10th. Greg told me afterwards that he could not do better. Then it ends there.”

 

"If Leezer had not been so strong and was caught 1 kilometer from the finish, I could have gone. But that did not happen," Van Avermaet explained. "And then I was too far behind to lead out in the sprint. If I could do anything, I would have definitely done it."

 

With Sagan, Cavendish and Boonen, the Worlds ended with a dream podium. 

 

"It was an honor to stand beside them on that podium," Cavendish said. "They are not just champions, but cycling legends and good friends. It made it special."

 

"I had mixed feelings on the podium," Boonen added. "I saw my brother and father and then I realized that I had prepared myself for a big race for the penultimate time.

 

"The next time will be the last time. It will soon be over. Then I first realized how close I am to the end."

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