Boonen will close out his career at next week’s Paris-Roubaix where he is a four-time champion, but winning at home in Belgium’s biggest event would be the perfect end to his career.
First, he has to get past van Avermaet (BMC) and Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) in the 260km race from Antwerp to Oudenaarde if he is to add to his tally of three Flanders victories (2005, 2006, 2012).
"I'm not without ambition,” Boonen told AFP. “Even though in my mind there is one man above the rest, Greg van Avermaet, who is without a doubt in with his best chance of winning this year.
"But that doesn't prevent me from believing in my chances. I'm not here for the show, I’ve come here to win and our collective strength could definitely help me."
Riding for Quick-Step Floors, Boonen has the strongest team on paper and one with several big cards to play, including Philippe Gilbert, Niki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar, a top 10 finisher in the last two editions of Flanders.
Boonen nominated Gilbert as team leader for the race, but if he’s in the mix as it reaches Oudenaarde, emotion and ambition will take over and the team is likely to throw all of its resources behind the 36-year-old giant of Belgian cycling.