Tom Boonen's Blog: The Bullet
When I launch my sprint for the Lungomare di Sanremo, it's almost immediately over. There is nothing I can do anymore at that moment. Just hit the pedals till the line. Compare it to a bullet which is shot. When you pull the trigger, the only question is if it will hit the target or not. And as a rider you know it immediately. Look at the Omloop het Nieuwsblad against Sep. I immediately felt it: 'All, wrong. Badly timed'. But the bullet was shot and my chance was over.
Sprinting is not only hard riding on a bike. The most important job is done beforehand when you load your revolver. The brain is 100% active at that moment: left, right, that wheel, there a hole. From one decision to another. Around you it is chaos, a wall of sound. Your receptors are incredibly sharp. Eyes, ears and feeling: they are working perfectly. As a human you are on the top of your being.
At one kilometer of the line you get into a cocoon. The automatic pilot takes over all movements. The brain is turned off and you react on instinct. Sometimes you do everything like you should, you shoot the bullet at the right moment. And after the race you ask yourself: How did I do that?
You have to lead yourself by that instinct. If you doubt, you are lost. I talked a lot about that with Wouter Weylandt. He always waited, left as second or third and was too late. 'Just go first!' I told him. If you lose, you lose. But nothing is that frustrating for a sprint if you can't shoot your bullet.
Wouter's death didn't change me as sprinter. Before his accident I knew the sport was dangerous and sprinting is for sure. There are real cowboys who shoot their bullets in the wild. Riders who cross the street from left to right or pull at your steer in the middle of a sprint. In the past they spoke badly about Tom Steels throwing his bidon. But it was an intuitive reaction, nothing compared to what happens nowadays.
In the 10 years I've been part of the bunch a lot changed. In the past there was more respect. McEwen, Petacchi, Zabel and Cipollini said 'Ok, you were fast today. I will win tomorrow'. Nowadays the guys take too big of risks. They push the line sometimes. Even if you have to explain it time after time it is hard to get by the supporters: we have the right to live our own life. When it is too dangerous, I just don't take part of it.
This blog is part of the blog series by Het Nieuwsblad