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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for April 2, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry and Jeff Jones

Museeuw and Boonen ready for the Ronde

By Jeff Jones in De Panne

Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step-Davitamon)
Photo ©: Gino Verhulst

Johan Museeuw and Tom Boonen are two of Quick.Step-Davitamon's leading lights for this Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. Together with Paolo Bettini, they will form one of the strongest blocks in this World Cup race, and it will be a surprise if one of them isn't in contention for the finale. Shortly after the finish of the Driedaagse van De Panne today, both Museeuw and Boonen gave a press conference at their hotel, and discussed their plans for the weekend.

Johan Museeuw's retirement at the Scheldeprijs in Antwerp/Schoten is less than two weeks away, but the Lion of Flanders, who is the most successful classics rider of his generation, is not thinking of his exit from the cycling milieu. Although Museeuw admits the Scheldeprijs is "not a race for me...firstly there are still two World Cup races [Flanders and Roubaix]. I've already said I'll concentrate on my final races."

Museeuw looks to be in good condition at the moment, but nevertheless rates himself as an "outside chance" for Flanders, a race that he's won three times. A fourth win in Ninove/Meerbeke would put him ahead of everyone in the record books, but that doesn't play a role in Museeuw's thinking for Sunday. "I doubt myself," he said. "I'm not as explosive as I was. Even forcing on the climbs is harder. It hasn't been a sudden change - it just goes slowly. It will be a little bit different than previously. It's possible that I will play a support role in the finale for Boonen and Bettini.

"Everyone races for each other in this team...I'll start with ambitions for the team to win. When Tom Boonen won last Saturday I was also very satisfied."

Asked about his "ideal race scenario", Museeuw lightheartedly said that it would be to "get over the hills and then to ride away alone" but added, more seriously, "Cycling is such a big sport that gifts aren't given out. I'm not afraid if it comes down to a small group at the end; I'm not chanceless in a sprint like that. Sprinting after 260 kilometres is different. It's not as explosive. The rider's power and freshness are important."

Surprisingly, for someone who was born and raised in West Flanders, Johan Museeuw would prefer the weather to be good on Sunday for the Ronde. "When I rode the Ronde in bad weather conditions, I finished a long way back," he said, prompting a short among the gathered press about whether Eric Vanderaerden had won that year [he hadn't].

The Quick.Step-Davitamon team tactics were surprisingly not forthcoming from Museeuw, but he hopes that the team will have "as many men as possible over the Koppenberg."

As to his favourites for the Ronde, Museeuw names last year's winner Peter van Petegem as the top favourite. "Van Petegem can deal with the pressure of the race. No-one sees him and then suddenly he attacks. He has been strong in recent races and is certainly the favourites. More so than ever."

Museeuw also named Rabobank's Erik Dekker is a man to watch, along with Michael Boogerd, Frank Vandenbroucke and Dave Bruylandts.

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon)
Photo ©: CN

Tom Boonen is another rider that Quick.Step should be able to count on for Sunday, although the talented 23 year old admits he may lack a little bit of endurance to go deep in the finale. Winner of the tough E3 Prijs last Saturday, Boonen said that, "I'm not a big favourite, but one of the favourites."

Boonen's recovery plans over the next two days will include, "not doing much tomorrow and having lots of rest. On Saturday I'll do two hours, then travel to Gent, have a massage and a sleep."

There is no particular climb that Tom Boonen hates in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. "They're all difficult, but there's not one that stands out. The Oude Kwaremont is my favourite."

Quick.Step-Davitamon for the Ronde van Vlaanderen: Johan Museeuw, Paolo Bettini, Tom Boonen, Wilfried Cretskens, Kevin Hulsmans, Servais Knaven, Luca Paolini, Stefano Zanini.

Click here for the full start list.

Van Petegem quietly confident

Defending champion Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo) didn't set the roads on fire in De Panne, but believes he will be ready for Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. "I feel good," he told VRT TV. "I could do everything perfectly; I've had good preparation; I haven't really been sick - only before the Omloop. The condition is good and I'm riding as well as last year."

When asked about Frank Vandenbroucke, who finished second behind Van Petegem last year, he replied "I've seen that he has been very good recently. We know Frank. He certainly wants to stand on the podium on Sunday."

Manzano's not done yet

"This doesn't end here," Jesus Manzano said at a press conference in Madrid, Spain Thursday. For the rider at the centre of the doping storm following extensive revelations and allegations of organised doping in the Kelme team, the chance to speak openly has brought new opportunities and also new challenges. Manzano met with his new Amore e Vita team Wednesday, which was presented in the presence of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. Meanwhile, following his whistle-blowing in the professional peloton, the Spaniard said he continues to receive threats from unnamed parties.

"In particular, a call on my mobile phone," he said of the latest incident. "Somebody who hid his number told me there was a contract on my head. My life is worth 3,000 euros..."

Insisting that his extensive interview with Spanish newspaper As was just the tip of the iceberg, Manzano noted that he covered only the 2003 season, not years prior. "First I will speak with the CSD, but I have held back more, which will come out," he said. "We'll talk about the Vuelta..."

Manzano's critics have expressed their doubts over the validity of his claims, but he says the proof exists and he is ready to provide it.

"The proof includes medical prescriptions, training diaries, and signed papers that are all sitting in a safe at the bank," Manzano explained. "I'll provide photocopies to the sports minister, and if necessary to the prosecutor when a legal investigation is started."

Vasseur and Clain face suspension

Cofidis' Cédric Vasseur is back on the hot seat, having been put under investigation by judge Richard Pallain Thursday along with his teammate Médéric Clain. Vasseur was questioned in the early stages of the investigation into drug trafficking surrounding the Cofidis team back in January, but was released and never charged with any offenses. Although they have not been charged with a crime now, Vasseur and Clain are in a delicate situation, facing possible suspension from the team.

According to team policy, once a rider is notified that he has been placed under investigation, a suspension is carried out. "If what I've been told is true [concerning Vasseur and Clain], the charter will apply," team manager Alain Bondue commented Thursday in l'Equipe.

New charges for Rutkiewicz

Marek Rutkiewicz, the first rider arrested in conjunction with the widening investigation into drug trafficking in France, appeared before judge Richard Pallain in France on Tuesday. Rutkiewicz remains under investigation, but the charges he faces have been changed, according to a report in Przeglad Sportowy.

While Rutkiewicz was found carrying prohibited substances upon his return to France from Poland in January, prosecutors determined that the quantities were insufficient to pursue charges of smuggling. Rutkiewicz is also said to have returned negative drug tests during his questioning by French police after the arrest.

Now prosecutors are focusing on the phone conversations taped between Rutkiewicz and Cofidis soigneur Bogdan Madejak, the only person involved in the affair who remains in police custody, as well as testimony from others questioned implicating Rutkiewicz. The ex-Cofidis rider remains in France, unable to return to his native Poland until the French authorities return his passport.

Garzelli eyes Giro win

Garzelli gets serious
Photo ©: Olympia

Stefano Garzelli has stated openly that he'll focus all of his efforts on a second Giro d'Italia title this May. The Vini Caldirola leader has spent time this week testing himself on several stages of this year's Giro, including the Trieste time trial and the climb of the Passo Falzes, along with his teammate Oscar Mason.

"After a victory and a second place, I want to make a second victory my major objective," Garzelli said Thursday. "The 2004 route suits me well."

Cyclingnews also welcomes Garzelli as a diarist for 2004.

Nys finds the answer

Cyclo-crosser Sven Nys (Rabobank) has found out what caused his form slump in the last third of the past cyclo-cross season. "I was suffering for weeks from a pinched nerve," he told CycloSprint magazine. "Perhaps a result from a crash before New Year, when I just started to get into form."

Irish weekend events

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

Organiser Kevin O'Leary is looking forward to staging the Top Car Jim O'Leary event Sunday in Whitechurch, Cork at mid-day. The race is run on the Whitechurch/Old Mallow circuit, which is ten miles around. "The competitors will have six laps of this course," said O'Leary. "It does not look that hard, but you take it from me that it'll sort the men from the boys. To the naked eye it is an unassuming course, but the drags are there and they will be the deciding factor as to who comes out on top."

Saturday Cian Lynch of the North Kildare CC, a road and leisure club, organises the North Kildare Classic at Staplestown, Co. Kildare. Cian, like Kevin, also competes on a regular basis, but both are committed to the promotion of the sport. Both intend to line up in their respective events over the weekend, but more than likely they will not figure in the generous prizes listed at both venues.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)