I was made
for lovin’ you
Words: Miriam Terruzzi
The neverending story between the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Tom Boonen and millions of fan.
he Ronde van Vlaanderen isn't just a race. The history, the frenzied action and the passionate audience are just a small part of the fascination that captivates millions of people around the world every year. In Belgium, cycling is the national sport and much more, it's a sport that ignites discussions around the table, chats with friends and even weather forecasts on TV. Everyone wonders if the battle on the cobblestone roads will be dry or wet, if the last gasp of winter frost will make the competition sharp or if the spring will be milder on the narrow country roads that make the course so demanding.
During the whole week before the Ronde, newspapers write page after page about the favorites, the route, the unknowns.
No one can explain the reason for the magical atmosphere that envelops this corner of the country during spring, just as it is impossible to explain the intensity of feeling that binds people to the sheer spirit of competition. For sure, the mix of adrenaline, beer, frites, the exhausting stretches of road and triumphant rides is a unique setting for an unforgettable show.
"When everything starts to ache, but you know you're in shape and can accelerate through extremely challenging terrain, you get a magical feeling.
I was born to do this."
Tom Boonen was a young boy when he first saw Johan Museeuw compete in the Ronde in 1996. Watching that performance set off a spark in a boy who was born and raised on bread and cycling. At that moment, Tom understood that from then on, his life would be a continuous race on the cobblestones in pursuit of the legend.
In the years that he has been a professional, Tornado Tom has become a true icon of modern cycling, inseparably linking himself to the Cobbled Classics like a true man of destiny.
In addition to four Paris-Roubaix, three Gent-Wevelgem and five E3-Harelbeke races, he won three editions of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, always with irresistible and memorable attacks from behind the pack.
"For me, it's like second nature. Everyone thinks you have to train a lot on these courses, but I never did. Never. What I've always liked, is that you always have to fight, first to take your position and then to survive, or rather, to attack. The secret is to float on the cobblestones, but you can only do that if you're in good physical condition and if you wake up in the morning knowing that today's going to be your day."
During his days of grace, Tommy didn't even wear gloves, later showing off his immaculate hands, demonstrating how he was able to fly virtually unharmed over the grueling stones of the Cobbled Classics.
His sprints in the most brutal spots and his devastating pace have established him as one of the most charismatic figures of the Cobbled Classics, making him a continuing inspiration for millions of cyclists around the world. His duels with his opponents are now legendary, in a sport involving battles to the last breath with three generations of racers. At the beginning of his professional career, he was able to challenge the great masters of the classics of the early 2000s and then became the star of the Boonen vs. Cancellara sporting rivalry and, with the arrival of the new generation of talents, he became a true point of reference for the team.
Tom Boonen is also the only cyclist to have conquered the Ronde, both on the classic route with the finish line in Ninove - where the Geraardsbergen was only 15 kilometers from the finish line - and on the new route - which winds along the circuit between Oude Kwaremont, Koppenberg and Paterberg, proving that he was a hero straddling two worlds and capable of conquering both.
"The fans go crazy and the race is designed to be really exciting. First, there are long straightaways and then technical sections on the cobblestones, and in both cases, you can't lose your concentration for a second.
I absolutely love it."