What a monumental victory for Tom Boonen today at Paris-Roubaix. The powerful Belgian dominated the famed Hell of the North contested on the cobbled roads of northern France. In a daring solo attack, Boonen rode away from his competitors and into cycling sainthood.
The already legendary rider capped off the early season of cycling classics with his record-tying fourth Paris-Roubaix victory. His triumph a week ago in the other great spring classic, the Tour of Flanders, would be enough for most riders. To win both is instant cycling immortality. To show just how prepared the powerful Boonen was for these classics, he added titles at the E3 Harelbeke on Friday, March 23, then captured the title at Gent-Wevelgem two days later.
In March of 2007, our camping gear was all packed in the duffel bag and sitting in the dining room. We were in San Jose waiting to see what would happen with the KU basketball team. Win, and KU was on to the Final Four that year. Lose, and we were off the next weekend for a week of cycling nirvana in Belgium and Northern France to watch the Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem (then a mid-week classic) and Paris-Roubaix.
After KU lost to UCLA, we filled one other bag with our clothing and flew the next Saturday on two stand-by flights to Brussels, Belgium. Arriving on Sunday morning, we raced to Flanders’ famed climb up the Muur-Kapelmuur to begin our week of cycling wonder.
Though Boonen won none of the three races we attended, his presence was everywhere. In cycling mad Belgium, Boonen is not just an athletic superstar, he is the NATION’S superstar. Following that Wednesday’s Gent-Wevelgem, I experienced Boonen’s fandom first hand. Seeing the Quick-Step bus, and the press waiting for Boonen, I walked over to the rope by the door with my cameras.
Soon, a crush of humanity enveloped me screaming wildly for Boonen to come to the bus door. There was nowhere I could go or move. I never covered the Beatles, but I can only imagine how it must have been as women completely lost themselves when Boonen finally did arrive at the door. Laura was standing further back, but we both could hear one woman constantly screaming, “Tom, I will take my clothes off for you right here.” The crush was smothering. I could not escape.
Just think what it must have been like today and over the past two weeks. Truly amazing for sure, but truly deserved by a great champion. Congratulations to Tom Terrific.