Boonen becomes the Tour's green giant

29th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 29, 2007 (AFP) - Belgium's former world champion Tom Boonen achieved one of his boyhood dreams by securing the coveted green jersey on the Tour de France here on Sunday.

PARIS, July 29, 2007 (AFP) - Belgium's former world champion Tom Boonen achieved one of his boyhood dreams by securing the coveted green jersey on the Tour de France here on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Quick Step rider, a former winner of the tough one-day classics Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, topped the points classification's prize with a total of 256.

Barloworld sprinter Robert Hunter, who made history in the race by winning his and South Africa's first ever stage, finished second on 234 having launched a late bid here on Sunday but finishing just one place ahead of Boonen.

Boonen was forced to abandon his last two Tour campaigns, but came to the race this year determined to make up for those setbacks.

He admitted however that the finale to Sunday's stage, a 146km race from Marcoussis to Paris, had pushed his stress levels into the red.

"The legs were fine today, but the stress of racing around the Champs Elysees trying to hold on to the green jersey has taken it out of me," said the visibly fatigued Boonen.

"All the sprints I did during the Tour I did to win, but today was all about protecting the green jersey. It's taken it out of me and I'm glad it's over but I'm super-happy."

Some will say the points classification this year was distorted by Australian Robbie McEwen failing to finish the race and Norwegian Thor Hushovd's under-apr Tour.

McEwen, a three-time former winner, bowed out after the eighth stage in the Alps after the injuries he picked up prior to his win on the first stage took their toll, the Predictor-Lotto sprinter finishing outside the stage's time limit.

The 2005 green jersey winner Hushovd, who won the fourth stage, finished this year's race with a second place finish behind Lampre's Daniele Bennati on the Champs Elysees.

However the Credit Agricole sprinter's injuries from a crash early in the race, followed by illness, meant he was soon virtually out of the running for the points competition.

That paved the way for Boonen, and the Belgian pin-up who likes to drive around in a bright yellow Lamborghini seized the opportunity with both hands.

Boonen, however began his campaign in baffling fashion.

After McEwen had totally dominated the field to win the first stage in Canterbury, England, the next day the Belgian came over the finish line in second, just centimetres behind teammate Gert Steegmans.

"I don't know if Tom let me win. Maybe, but the most important thing is that we finished one and two today," said Steegmans, who until last year was one of the lead-out men for McEwen at his Davitamon team.

A day later Boonen took possession of the sprinters' coveted green jersey with a one-point lead on McEwen, and extended his lead over the Aussie on the third stage from Waregem to Compiegene.

Hunter's victory on stage 11 to Montpellier hoisted the South African up to second place, however Boonen reinforced his grip with a second stage win of the race the following day in Castres.

Through the Pyrenees mountains, the green jersey never left Boonen's shoulders - and on the three transitional stages which followed stage 16 he topped up his points tally at the finish line.


AFP

Subject: French news

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