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From the cobbles to the race track: Tom Boonen is living his best life

From the cobbles to the race track: Tom Boonen is living his best life

On the five-year anniversary of his last professional bike race — Paris-Roubaix on April 9, 2017 — I find myself sitting at a large wooden…

Saturday, Apr 23

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On the five-year anniversary of his last professional bike race — Paris-Roubaix on April 9, 2017 — I find myself sitting at a large wooden table across from Classics legend Tom Boonen . I don’t think either of us were aware of this momentous coincidence at the time. The 2022 edition of Paris-Roubaix wouldn’t be happening till the following week after all.

Tom was attending the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California, to promote his Classified Powershift company. Even amid a sea of 74,000 people, the tall Belgian stood out.

We said hi, made small-talk and exchanged digits to meet up for a proper chat later on at the weekend. When that time came, we wandered the sandy and wind-swept venue in search of a modicum of quiet.

Along the way, we conversed easily. He in Flemish, me in Dutch. We chatted about recent bike races we’d both watched and shared our mutual fondness for handmade steel bikes and old motorcycles. He stopped to show me photos of his blonde twin ‘princesses’ on his phone. I showed him the 1982 Honda Twinstar I converted into a cafe racer during the pandemic.

Not once did we get interrupted by a fan.

I’m sure that if this meeting had taken place in Belgium, things would have certainly gone differently. But Tom seemed to prefer it this way. Throughout the four expo days, he gave his time generously to everyone. Even to a group of amateur mountain bikers who’d been helping themselves liberally to the free beer […]

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