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Tom Boonen on disc brakes, choice of wheels and … alpaca farming

Soon-to-retire Classics legend responds to questions asked by fans on Twitter

Tom Boonen has a diploma in Alpaca farming. That’s one of the things we have learnt this week about the soon-to-retire Classics specialist who with his great rival Fabian Cancellara dominated Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders over the past decade and a half.

Last week, Boonen’s Quick Step Floors team asked its followers on Twitter to put their questions to him, using the hashtag #AskTom. He chose his favourite ten and provided answers to them.

Boonen will retire after this season’s Paris-Roubaix, a race he has won a joint record four times. 

> Tom Boonen announces retirement

One Twitter user asked him: “If you have the chance to go to the Space Station or win Paris-Roubaix again, what would you choose?”

He replied: “Not saying it wouldn't be awesome to visit the Space Station, but I think I must keep my feet on the ground here and go for what's more realistic at the moment, and that's another victory in Paris-Roubaix.”

Last month, Boonen became the first rider ever to win a professional race using disc brakes, and he has been highly vocal in his appreciation of the technology, so it’s no surprise he answered a question on that subject.

> Boonen becomes first pro to win on disc brakes

He was asked: “At which point in which races will disk brakes make the biggest difference for you?” 

Boonen said: “Everywhere! In the Classics, on a downhill, going into the last kilometre of a technical final and having better bike control, you name it, disc brakes will make the difference.”

Another technical question concerned his choice of wheels: “I've noticed you use two different size rims for front and back. Does this give the bike better handling?”

“I prefer 64 and 50, but it may vary depending on the race,” responded Boonen. “In Argentina, for example, I used two 64s on one stage, because when it was a closed track and always straight all day long. 

“In the Worlds I rode 64 in the back and the old 60 in the front. In the end, it's just a personal choice.”

And that unlikely agricultural qualification? It seems it forms part of his post-retirement plans, as he revealed in his reply to this question: “Congrats on your Alpaca Farmer diploma! Have you bought any alpacas yet?”

“No, not yet. I have to wait until I stop, and then I'll buy a few. I just love them, because Alpacas are great, they always protect the herd and aren't afraid of anything, they even attack wolves; I also like them for being always curious and coming to you, they're like a bigger pet.”

So there you have it. To see all 10 responses, head to the Quick Step Floors website.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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