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Latest Cycling News for April 9, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

The last hurrah: Johan Museeuw's final classic

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Museeuw and Van Petegem in 2003
Photo: © Jeff Tse
Click for larger image

Like the brutal trench warfare in WW1, it's bound to be an pitched battle across the wet and windy cobbled farm roads of Northern France this Sunday, from the Chateau of Compiegne to the Roubaix Velodrome. This year, as the 102nd edition of Paris-Roubaix, often called the Queen of the Classics draws nigh, Paris-Roubaix is wide open affair with no clear favourite.

Certainly 39 year old Johan Museeuw, the current King of the Classics, (Quick.Step-Davitamon), in his penultimate pro race must be at least everybody's sentimental favourite for Paris-Roubaix. Slated to retire next Wednesday at the Grote Scheldeprijs, GP de l'Escaut, Museeuw currently has 101 career wins, including 11 World Cup victories, more than any active rider. Museeuw was most recently 15th at the Tour of Flanders World Cup last Sunday and is currently over his early season intestinal and back in good form.

To win Paris-Roubaix, the more experience the better, and with three wins already in his palmares, Museeuw could take his fourth win Sunday to equal his fellow Belgian Roger De Vlaeminck, who dominated the Queen Of the Classics in the 1970's, winning four times in six years (1972-4-5-7). Johan has a great team in Quick.Step-Davitamon but if he fades, watch out for his teammate Tom Boonen.

Clearly Museeuw's heir apparent as a Classics killer, the fast, powerful 23 year old Boonen rode a superb race in Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem. Already on the podium at Roubaix in 2002, Tom Terrific may be ready to inherit Museeuw's mantle this weekend. With cycling's best classic team in Quick.Step-Davitamon (but without Paolo Bettini), either Museeuw, Boonen or even 2001 Roubaix winner, teammate Servais Knaven could capture the coveted cobblestone trophy in the Roubaix Velodrome.

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Tales from the pavé

Michele Bartoli: The warrior speaks before Paris-Roubaix

In CSC colours at Paris-Nice
Photo: © Luc Claessen
Click for larger image

Michele Bartoli (Team CSC) is no stranger to cobblestones. The veteran classics rider has won his share of races in northern Europe, including the Tour of Flanders and Het Volk, each of which offers its fair share of pounding on the pavé. Bartoli is one of the most successful classics riders currently in the peloton, with seven World Cup victories to his name, as well as the overall series title in 1997. One race Bartoli has never ridden, however, is Paris-Roubaix.

The former Italian champion had a tough time at last weekend's Tour of Flanders, unable to find his best form to challenge for a second win in the Ronde. Counted among the outside favourites for the race, he struggled home in 57th place, more than five minutes behind race winner Steffen Wesemann.

"As things progressed my breathing wasn't optimal and I had to face up to the fact that I was unable to really make a difference," Bartoli said of his Flanders performance. Thankfully for Team CSC, Frank Høj was ready to step in and came through with a top ten finish in Meerbeke. It's this level of teamwork that team director Bjarne Riis will count on once more in Paris-Roubaix.

Bartoli's season started well with solid rides in the Tour Méditerranéen and Paris-Nice (before he abandoned following a crash), but a tumble in the finale of Milan-San Remo dashed his hopes of opening the season with another World Cup win. Now he's hoping to turn things back around and add another major classic to his lengthy palmarès.

"I feel really good. I'm very keen on doing a good race," Bartoli told Cyclingnews Wednesday. "I feel like the time has come and I really want to get a big result... I'm very motivated."

Asked whether he felt any trepidation before tackling the infamous Paris-Roubaix parcours, Bartoli's answer was nothing if not direct. "No," he said. "I'm not afraid at all."

"In some ways it's an easy race," he added.

Click here for the full interview with Michele Bartoli.

Boonen's top five

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

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon), this year's winner of Gent-Wevelgem and the E3 Prijs-Vlaanderen, will line up on Sunday as one of the favourites for Paris-Roubaix, a race where he finished third in his first attempt as a pro, back in 2002. But if Boonen has his own way, then Sunday's victory will go to his teammate and three time winner Johan Museeuw, who will be the team's captain in his final classic.

In an interview with Het Nieuwsblad, Boonen described his ideal scenario: "Johan wins his final Paris-Roubaix. A fourth time. Again completely alone, against the wind."

In second place, he puts himself: "I will protect Johan's breakaway and beat Peter Van Petegem on the Velodrome in the sprint for second place."

Third will be last year's winner Van Petegem: "Peter is out for revenge after Sunday. Then he's the most dangerous. If he suffers a defeat, then he is the loser of the spring season."

In fourth place, Steffen Wesemann, winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen: "Paris-Roubaix suits him a lot better than the Ronde van Vlaanderen. He'll beat my friend George Hincapie in the sprint for the fourth place."

Rounding out the top five is Hincapie: "George showed in the KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde that he is in the right form. On Sunday he'll show that he is very good."

Boonen, together with Museeuw and the rest of the Quick.Step team, will ride some sections of the parcours on Friday. "The Hell stands before the door," said Boonen. "For me it always remains the most important race of the race. When I stand in the showers in Roubaix, I actually start the preparation for next year."

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago for Paris-Roubaix

Led by veterans Jacky Durand and Ludo Dierckxsens, Belgian team Landbouwkrediet-Colnago is hoping for a good performance in this Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. Also, the in-form Ludovic Capelle will be an important member of the team, alongside Geert Van Bondt, Lorenzo Bernucci, Johan Verstrepen, Marc Streel and Tony Bracke.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be covering the 102nd edition of Paris-Roubaix live from start to finish. Coverage starts at 11:00 CEST (Europe)/5:00 EDT (USA East)/2:00 PDT (USA West)/19:00 AEST (Australia East).

In addition, we hope to welcome Rabobank rider Mathew Hayman as a guest commentator for the race. Hayman has ridden Paris-Roubaix four times but will not be taking the start this Sunday due to injuries sustained in a crash in Gent-Wevelgem.

Cofidis team leaders accused

The Cofidis team's manager Alain Bondue, directeur sportif Alain Deloeil and team doctor Jean-Jacques Menuet have been accused by the court in Nanterre of supplying banned substances to riders, French newspaper L'Equipe reported on Friday. The accusations were made following Nanterre judge Richard Pallain's interrogation of former Cofidis rider Philippe Gaumont, who claimed there was systematic doping within the team. Gaumont was sacked by Cofidis earlier this year after he admitted to doping.

Dr. Menuet was directly accused by Gaumont, who told L'Equipe, "The policies of Menuet are that he would never prescribe an illegal product, never have a forbidden product, but if you bring him these same products, not only will he give you information about them, he will also help you administer them."

Gaumont also named World Time Trial Champion and Tour de France time trial (Nantes) winner David Millar in his testimony, asking to use "the rest of the preparation that he (Millar) had taken that same morning with Lelli, before the (Nantes) time trial. Menuet injected each of us with of a clear liquid."

Dr. Menuet refused to comment on Gaumont's allegations, preferring to leave it up to the judicial enquiry. In addition, both Cofidis manager Alain Bondue and D.S. Alain Deloeil have denied that they have had any role in supplying banned substances to their riders.

Gaumont also named Médéric Clain, Cedric Vasseur, Robert Sassone and former Oktos director Oleg Kozlitine as part of his mini-drug ring, which sold or exchanged growth hormone, EPO and other banned products. Finally, he accused the French cycling federation's doctor, Dr Armand Mégret, of giving him his first injection of corticosteroids, back in 1994.

"I affirm that I never injected Gaumont, nor any other racers, with Kenacort," said Dr. Menuet to judge Pallain. "Gaumont is the only racer in the neo-professional cycling environment who, in his first contact with me, asked me to obtain doping substances for him. Those were not his exact words, but it is clear that's what he wanted to say."

A new top Dutch team in the works

A new Dutch division I team is on the drawing board, according to Dutch TV program NOS Studio Sport. The team will be managed by Cees Priem (ex-TVM) with Jan Raas (ex-Rabobank) as his advisor. The pair said that they have two serious sponsors lined up.

Schotte's funeral today

Albéric Schotte's funeral will be held today (Friday, April 9) in Kortrijk's Sint-Maartenskerk. "Iron Briek", as he was known, passed away last Sunday aged 84. He was considered one of Flanders' greatest champions and he truly characterised the Flemish hard-working, no-nonsense spirit.

Schotte's coffin will be carried by past and current top cyclists Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy, Roger De Vlaeminck, Benoni Beheyt, Freddy Maertens, Erik Leman, Sean Kelly and Frank Vandenbroucke. UCI president Hein Verbruggen will also be present at the funeral. Schotte will eventually be laid to rest in his family's grave in Waregem's town cemetery.

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