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.
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.
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.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.