When asked by reporters if he was in as good shape as he was seven days ago the Belgian answered, "Yeah, maybe even better." Asked whether he was sure, he responded: "No, I said maybe."
Boonen, who revived passion for the sport in his native country, could become the first rider to win both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix twice in succession, a feat not even achieved by his illustrious compatriot Eddy Merckx.
Going into the record books is not Boonen's primary motivation. "I try to win anyway," he said, "Whether I had won the Tour of Flanders or not would have made no difference. Sunday is another day and I will try to win Paris-Roubaix one more time."
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CYCLING 2006 Ronde van Vlaanderen Boonen Hoste
Image credit: dpa
Quick Step sporting manager Wilfried Peeters said that Boonen's main rivals were Peter Van Petegem, team Discovery duo Leif Hoste and George Hincapie, Fabian Cancellara, and the ever-dangerous Juan-Antonio Flecha.
Boonen will not be riding to defeat any rider in specific though. "I always ride my own race and make my own decisions," he said. "When I want to attack, I attack. I have won a lot of races like that so I think it's a good way to race."
The Belgian mastered all of the same riders last week, but this time around, the cobblestones will also be a deciding factor in the outcome of the race.
Asked if he was happy that the "trench" of Arenberg was back in the course, Boonen said, "I didn't like it before and I don't like it now. It's a place where you cannot really defeat your opponents, but where you either have good luck or bad luck."
CYCLING, 104ma Parigi-Roubaix
Image credit: Eurosport
Like other teams, the Quick Step will be riding with forks slanted more than usual, lower air pressure in the tires, and reinforced wheels to face the jarring 52.7 km of cobblestones.
Quick Step team-mate and 2001 winner Servais Knaven looks to the sky for hope. "Some parts of the course are the same and some are a bit more safe. If it's not going to rain than it's okay, but if it does then it's going to be a big mess." Many riders noted that sand placed under the Arenberg cobblestones has come out from between the cracks and that rainy conditions could make them very dangerous.
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