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A little over one month ago, Tom Boonen found himself out of Paris-Nice, in a hospital in Blois, France, with a dislocated shoulder joint. Etixx-Quick-Step’s aging classics star had to scratch his plans to race his beloved spring races, notably Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and Paris-Roubaix. From that disappointment has sprung a new opportunity: He’ll race the Giro d’Italia for the first time in his 16-year career.
“I haven’t ridden much in Italy during my career because it didn’t fit in with my main goals,” said Boonen.
After rumors that the Belgian would race Paris-Roubaix proved false, the Etixx team announced Tuesday that Boonen, 34, will return to racing at the Presidential Tour of Turkey, April 26-May 3. He’ll take on that race with sprinter Mark Cavendish, who won four stages and the points classification in Turkey last year.
“After his crash Tom worked really hard to come back as soon as possible,” Etixx sport and development manager Rolf Aldag said in a team press statement. “This shows how a big disappointment like his crash, and the inability to ride the classics because of his injuries, can become a big chance.”
The Tour of Turkey will be used to build Boonen’s fitness ahead of the Giro d’Italia, which will start just six days later. There, Boonen will likely aim to win a stage, but he noted that his role will primarily be to support GC leader Rigoberto Uran, who is vying to win his first grand tour.
“I’m very excited to start the next part of the season,” Boonen said. “It will be nice to go to the Tour of Turkey, a race I’ve never done before and see what happens. For sure I will be suffering a little bit, but it will be useful for the Giro. As for the Giro, I’m happy to be at the start for the first time in my career to support the team strategy in function of Rigo [Uran].”
Cavendish, on the other hand, will opt out of the Giro in favor of the Amgen Tour of California, then Tour de Suisse, as he builds toward the Tour de France.
“I don’t like to miss the Giro, which is a key race that helped me build up my career,” Cavendish said. “I have great memories of that race and I hope to come back to the Giro in the future”
“We believe based on last year and his other career performances that this is the right race schedule for Mark to be in the best shape for le Tour de France,” Aldag added.
Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) won last year’s Tour of Turkey. This year will be the 51st running of the weeklong stage race.