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Tales from the peloton, April 15, 2004
The Lion's last roar: Part II
In Part II of this special Cyclingnews feature, the riders of the peloton took a moment to reflect on the most celebrated and respected classics rider our of generation before the Lion of Flanders rode his last Paris-Roubaix, with subsequent anecdotes from Scott Sunderland, Roger De Vlaeminck, Fiorezni Magni, Jean-Marie Leblanc, Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy, and Rik Van Steenbergen.
Editor's note: If any other professional riders or team directors wish to provide an anecdote on Johan, you can do so here.
Part I: A tribute to cycling legend Johan Museeuw
Quotes before the 102nd Paris-Roubaix
Michele Bartoli (Team CSC)
"Johan is a fantastic rider, someone who's won just about every classic. I always keep my eye on him in a race because he knows exactly what's happening. He's one of the greatest riders of all time."
Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon)
"Maybe some of you have already heard this story about Johan, but I'm going to tell it anyway:
"In April 2000, we had started Liegi Bastone Liegi. I was the team captain at Mapei, my first big chance. It was a few weeks after Johan had won his second Parigi-Roubaix. It was cold and wet at the start but after a while the weather improved so I took off my rain cape, arm warmers and leg warmers. I began to drift back to the team car to give them to our diesse Parsani.
"Johan saw me and said: 'Give me all your stuff... today you have to stay in front so you can win.' Can you believe it? Museeuw was my gregario! That gave me so much confidence that day that I knew I couldn't fail because he believed in me. And you know the rest of that story!
"Well that's the first story that came to mind about Johan but there are so many about a special guy like him. I'm very proud to have raced alongside him. Dear Lion, we'll miss you... "
Jeroen Blijlevens (Bankgiroloterij)
"Museeuw is a rider who has really worked his way up from the bottom, and he has worked very hard to become one of the absolute best. He is a very smart rider who can win on any course in any condition."
Dirk Demol (Team Manager, US Postal/Berry Floor)
"When you talk about Museeuw and his career... he's a big champion. He won Flanders three times and Roubaix three times, and he won many many classics. He's a great champion."
On Museeuw's biggest wins: "The victory here in Roubaix here two years ago, after that big escape he had when we were chasing with Tom Boonen and George Hincapie. He just left them. That was probably the biggest Roubaix of his career. Another one would be the fact that he was world road champion. Nobody was expecting him in such a hard race on such a hard parcours. He wasn't the favourite but he won that day, and it was a super performance."
Giancarlo Ferretti (Team Manager, Fassa Bortolo)
"Well, he is 37... 38 you say? Oh, even better! If he wins today it would be truly amazing, but even if he doesn't, he is still an amazing rider with an amazing career."
Steven de Jongh (Rabobank)
"I have a lot of respect for Museeuw's career. Even though he will stop shortly after this race (Roubaix), he is still one of the biggest favourites."
Patrick Lefèvre (Team Manager, Quick.Step-Davitamon)
"You want me to talk about Museeuw. Ah, how many hours do you have? He is the best classic rider the world has seen during the last fifteen years, but he is not just a champion who can win big races, I have also seen him give away many beautiful victories to his teammates."
Jo Planckaert (MrBookmaker-Palmans)
"It is a shame for Belgian cycling that he is quitting, but I guess he has enough money now. Honestly, Belgian cycling now has to rely on Tom Boonen. I'd say that Johan Museeuw is the best classic rider we've seen for at least ten years."
Editor's note: All except Scott Sunderland's as collected by Het Nieuwsblad.
Scott Sunderland (Alessio-Bianchi)
"The fact that the Flemish people, a people which I have been living amongst for the past 15 years and have grown to appreciate, have given him the name "de Leeuw van Vlaanderen" says it all. In their hymn the Lion is praised, saying he'll be strong as long as he has got the claws. Personally, I think Johan is still able to roar and show his claws like the strongest and toughest lion. But his decision to put a stop to his active cycling career has to be respected; just like he is respected for all the great things he did on the bike."
Roger De Vlaeminck
"What he could bring to his profession in his lifetime, I couldn't. For that I admire him."
"I've won the Ronde three times, but the real Lion of Flanders is Museeuw."
"He collected more podium places in the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix than Merckx and Van Looy. That says enough."
"Museeuw certainly belongs with Van Steenbergen and Van Looy."
Rik Van Looy
"He is without doubt the best classics rider of the last 10 years."
Rik Van Steenbergen
"I admire Museeuw. He is so completely Flemish. A man of wind and cobbles."