PEOPLE

My pot of gold
at the end
of the rainbow

Words: Tom Boonen & Miriam Terruzzi
Images: Getty Images & Kristof Ramon

Journal Alt

Tom Boonen talks about the magic of the World Championship jersey and the significance of wearing it at the beginning of his dazzling career.

I

t is said that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. For those who believe in legends, it would be easy to think that Tom Boonen found that treasure in the Madrid 2005 iris, a World Championship that established Tommeke for the first time as a true champion of modern cycling.

The secret ingredient.

When I won the World Championship in Madrid in 2005 I was twenty-four years old and I couldn't believe that I had achieved such an important goal. That day everything went as it was supposed to, and I think that's the secret ingredient really: everything going perfectly.
In cycling, compared to other sports, the question is not whether you will be the best rider the whole season but rather you will be the best that day.

A life-changing moment.

The World Championship win made me a better athlete. I'd had a bit of a rough season that year, with a bad injury at the Tour de France that forced me to return home in the green jersey.
From that moment on I channeled all my energy into the World Championships, I put everything aside to focus on that day, no distractions. I worked hard on myself and trained hard to make sure that everything would be perfect.
When I saw my parents and my brother from the podium, I was overwhelmed by an indescribable feeling and I realized that everything had been done to live the intensity of that moment.
Then everything changed, but if I have to choose a special moment from that day it is this: me on the podium looking at my family proud of me, my mom with tears in her eyes while the national anthem plays.

Fiandre

Being on top of the World.

The season after winning the World Championship was one of my best, with the World Championship jersey you are more in control but also more motivated.
Wearing it is a responsibility that leads you to always give your best to honor it. Whatever happens, the iris remains tied to you forever, it's natural that your outlook changes completely from that moment on. That year, I had already won some important races, including two Classics and stages at the Tour, but the World Championship really put me on an international stage.
I was a young guy and there were definitely a lot of question marks about what I was going to do in the future, but from that moment on it started to look like I could become an interesting name in the Northern Classics.

Flanders 2021

I know the route of the 2021 World Championship very well, it is the same as the GP of Leuven and also one of the routes I do and have done often in training. It's not a particularly difficult course on paper, but what makes it highly selective is the way the course unfolds.
The alternating climbs, both long and short, and the narrow roads along the canals set the stage for a fast race, where it will be fairly easy to maintain a high pace throughout the race. The climbs will last about ten minutes rather than thirty, and riders will need to stay ahead much more than they do on other courses.
Finding the right time for action is the other aspect that will make the race challenging as it is difficult to decide when to attack or know for sure when the race will split. It will be important to stay in front and control in order to preserve the leader for the finish. I'm pretty sure that a group of thirty or forty riders will make a play for the title in the sprint, although it's always hard to predict what can happen in a World Championship.

Feeling the race

Since I stopped racing in the pros, I have started to watch races differently. I know that when you're in the field, your perception is limited to what's going on in front of you and you don't have the overview that television provides.
Today, despite my twenty years of experience in the field, I'm not one of those people who shouts at the screen and pretends to give directions on tactics, but when I watch the races I let my passion for this sport flow like the cobblestones under my wheels once did. I simply allow my emotions to take over, that's all. So the race, somehow, can still flow through me, endlessly.