First Edition Cycling News for April 12, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones, Chris Henry & Anthony Tan
Once again, the Queen of the Classics lived up to its expectations as one of the toughest one day races of all. Raced in dry, cool conditions with a headwind, the race blew apart - as usual - in the Arenberg Forest with 100 km to go. The lead group of 38 was gradually whittled down until 13 km from the finish when Johan Museeuw accelerated in Gruson, taking Magnus Bäckstedt, Roger Hammond, Tristan Hoffman and Fabian Cancellara with him. Museeuw had the misfortune to puncture with 6 km to go, leaving the other four to fight out the victory in Roubaix. In the end, it was Bäckstedt who had the best legs on the day to take a dream win, the first ever by a Swedish rider in this race.
Cyclingnews Paris-Roubaix coverage
Full results &
Magnus Bäckstedt (Alessio-Bianchi)
The winner of this year's Paris-Roubaix is no stranger to the northern cobbles, even though it's been three years since he last rode it. Bäckstedt has always loved the Hell of the North, and he's a man who prefers bad weather. He didn't get his wish today for mud, but that didn't matter as he powered around Cancellara and Hammond with 100m to go to take the victory in Roubaix velodrome.
"I can't believe I won it," he said simply. "My plan for the race this morning was to keep an eye on Museeuw, Van Petegem, Wesemann, and even on Tom Boonen. While doing that, I made sure to stay out of the wind and out of trouble, and I didn't have one puncture. When it came down to a group of four, I realised I had a chance of a lifetime to win Paris-Roubaix. I didn't hesitate when I saw a gap open up on the inside (in the velodrome). Once I got through they gave me a little gap and that was it."
Tristan Hoffman (CSC, 2nd)
CSC's Tristan Hoffman found reason to be satisfied with his race, his best result in Paris-Roubaix. "I've been trying to prove myself for many years now, and I feel like I've been successful doing that with my results," he explained. "There was nothing that could be done about Magnus, but at least that leaves me one more goal to focus on in the next few years." I don't know if I will get another chance like this. But OK, this is one of the races I can win."
Roger Hammond (MrBookmaker.com-Palmans)
"It's incredible," Hammond told Cyclingnews. "To turn into the final corner into the velodrome in the lead group, knowing I was still in with a chance of winning Paris-Roubaix...It was a dream come true. Okay, I messed up the last 200 metres, but I did 260 kilometres correct. I made an error and I paid for it. If I could change things, I would, but in the heat of the moment you have to make a decision. I made the decision to go when I wanted to, but I just wasn't strong enough and that's all."
Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo, 4th)
Fabian Cancellara has won bunch sprints before, but this time he was fourth in a group of four. He led out with 250m to go, but was unable to hold his position in front and was passed by his companions.
"It's a pity to finish fourth," he said. "But I think that to win a race like this, it's first necessary to lose it. And also I was really tired and without any strength. When I first entered the velodrome I had goosebumps and I found very little energy to do the sprint. I think that it will be a feeling that I'll remember for a long time. It's the second time I've done Paris-Roubaix, and it will be one of my big objectives for the next years."
Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step-Davitamon, 5th)
In contention for the win until he punctured with 6 km to go on the cobbles at Hem, Johan Museeuw's last Paris-Roubaix was still an impressive performance. After his puncture and an agonisingly slow wheel change, Van Petegem came back to him followed by the rest of the group, but the leaders were gone. Eventually, he and Van Petegem rode away from the rest and finished hand in hand as fifth and sixth in Roubaix. After the race was over, Museeuw said that he cried for half an hour.
"I thought that my fourth win here was within my grasp," he told VRT. "Just before I flatted, I said to myself 'I'll win today'. Two seconds later, I heard 'sssssss'. I've ridden in the same hole before. I know that hole. Everything collapsed like a house of cards. Isn't it normal that I'm emotional?
"The manner in which I'm retiring is very great. At the highest level I did everything for the win. I had malchance."
Peter van Petegem (Lotto-Domo, 6th)
When defending champion Peter van Petegem punctured with 17 km to go, his race fell apart. Although he was able to regain the main group, the winning break had already gone. He eventually finished alone with Museeuw in the velodrome, shaking hands with the Lion as they crossed for fifth and sixth places respectively.
"One puncture: it couldn't have been at a worse moment," he told VRT. "My legs felt maybe better than in 2003. After remounting I came to Museeuw again, but he told me that he had problems with his derailleur. Then it was all over.
"On the track Museeuw asked me to take his hand. That I did, but I would have preferred to sprint for the victory. If Johan and I hadn't punctured, we would have been sprinting for the win."
Tom Boonen (Quick.Step, 9th)
"We made and coloured the race. It's so frustrating when you lose so stupidly. Johan couldn't be comforted at the start. I found it hard myself.
Leif Hoste (Lotto-Domo, 12th)
Hoste rode another great race, but a spectator let go of a Flemish flag whilst he was in the leading break with 24 km to go and he was forced back into the chase group. "There was a kid with a flag. Everything went down the drain immediately. For the same money, it was a completely different race."
Scott Sunderland (Alessio-Bianchi, 44th)
Magnus Bäckstedt's teammate and Cyclingnews diarist Scott Sunderland was delighted with his team's win, especially as they'd only started with six riders this morning in Compiegne.
"It's fantastic that Maggy won," Sunderland told Cyclingnews. "He told me at the start, 'I've been waiting for three years to do this race. I'm going to give it full whack' and he did. He's deserved it. It was his day.
"Magnus has just taken a huge leap forward in his career. He'd been riding well in Flanders and he said he felt good. Then with the bad weather he gained a lot of confidence in Gent-Wevelgem. His second place there gave him more self confidence for Roubaix. Once he's got his mind set around it, he gets a lot of strength for that. The whole day he was able to position himself right for the start.
"Fabio Baldato did great work for him before the end and the rest of us kept them out of the wind before Arenberg. We only started with six guys and we lost Marcus Ljungqvist early, as he's still suffering from the crash last year. So it was a collective effort from everybody and it's just great.
"For my first Paris-Roubaix I'm stoked. It's not really my terrain and to finish where I did and in the company I was with I was happy. Maybe I might be a good luck charm. I'll have to come back next year."
Marc Sergeant (Lotto-Domo team director)
"Have we again applied the wrong tactics?" Marc Sergeant asked cynically. "We were cut down by an excess of bad luck. When we had seven in an attractive position in the first group, the misery began. De Clercq fell heavily, Vierhouten and Van Petegem punctured and Hoste got a flag in his wheel."
Wilfried Peeters (Quick.Step director)
"In sporting terms this is the most disappointing day of my life," Peeters told VRT. "I broke my steering wheel into three pieces."
News from Manchester World Cup
McGee bound for Athens
On the first day of racing at the Track World Cup in Manchester, FdJeux.com rider Bradley McGee took a convincing win in the men's four kilometre individual pursuit, and in doing so, staked his claim for a place in the Australian Olympic team bound for Athens.
McGee took time out from his preparations during a busy European road schedule to ride the event that made him a junior world champion some 11 years ago in Quito, Ecuador. McGee comfortably won the event in 4minutes 19.692seconds, almost seven second faster than Spain's Sergi Escobar Roure, who posted a time of 4:26.690. British rider Paul Manning won the ride-off for bronze against Russian Alexander Serov. McGee will have just three weeks between the end of the Tour de France to the start of the Olympics.
"I won't be considering it a break," McGee said to Cyclingnews. "You get in such a rhythm on the Tour, you just can't stop, otherwise you lose every sensation."
"The Manchester World Cup was just about my last chance to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games," added the 28 year-old Sydneysider on his website, bradleymcgee.com. "Having already competed at both Atlanta and Sydney, I was keen to make the Australian team for these Games. Having been fortunate to have been in the medals in both Atlanta and Sydney, I am keen to take tops honours this time around. Before I start planning for that though I have some major road racing to contend with."
Aussies receive wake-up call in teams pursuit
McGee also rode the teams pursuit the following evening, but the reigning world champions received a rude wake-up call from the British quartet of Robert Hayles, Paul Manning, Christopher Newton, and Bryan Steel. Great Britain put the late withdrawal of road time trial world champion and Cofidis rider David Millar behind them to emerge victorious from the ride-off for gold and silver with the Netherlands.
In Millar's absence, the British team took a comfortable victory in the final with a time of 4:03.138, more than two seconds ahead of the Netherlands' squad of Levi Heimans, Jens Mouris, Peter Schep and Jeroen Straathof (4:05.500). Manning said to Cyclingnews afterwards: "We've just become fairly flexible in recent years, we've tried to experiment at World Cups and move around. It would have been good to see what he could have done though, that's the real disappointment, that he wasn't part of the team."
Australia, on the other hand, ran into difficulty in qualifying when Peter Dawson got into trouble in the middle of the group with the quartet splitting in two, and had to battle hard for a disappointing time of 4:08.082. After a quick personnel change, Australia had a point to prove in the bronze medal contest, where they bounced back from a disastrous heat to post a time just outside that of the winning British team, passing New Zealand at the 3km mark for a time of 4:03.434.
McGee said the earlier race provided a valuable lesson for the Australians: "I think this morning's session might have been a God-send actually if you look in the long-term, a bit of a wake-up call, it gets everyone on their toes," he said.
"The dominance that these boys have had for a few years now, it's good to be sat back on your backside a little bit. It just means everyone had to really sharpen up for tonight. There tonight I was jumping on the pedals twice as hard as what I was this morning and because everyone was on the ball, it just worked."
Millar was set to make his international track debut in the team pursuit in a bid to ride the time trial and individual pursuit at this year's Olympics. But the Scot stood by Cofidis' decision to pull their riders out of all competition while they clarify their position in a doping investigation by French authorities. "Despite being incredibly disappointed, I have a great deal of respect for my sponsor and I am 100 percent behind the necessity of this decision," Millar said. "In the meantime, my objectives and motivation for this year remain the same."
Also in Manchester was world kilo champion Shane Kelly, who is hoping to ride the 1,000m time trial and the keirin in Athens; Kelly decided not contest the kilo on Friday night but came up with a win in the keirin ahead of Malaysia's Josiah Ng and Frenchman Florian Rousseau.
See Cyclingnews' coverage of the Manchester Track World Cup for full results, reports and photos.
French team finds hope in Thomas Lövkvist
With France's number one team, Cofidis, pulling its entire squad just hours before the start of Paris-Roubaix in the wake of escalating doping scandals surrounding their team, another French team, FDJeux.com, can look to a 20 year-old glimmer of hope by the name of Thomas Lövkvist.
In only his first year as a professional, the tall Swede launched an audacious attack with Frenchman Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole) on the final stage of the Circuit de la Sarthe that saw him drop Moreau after 20 kilometres and win the stage in a 150 kilometre breakaway. Not only that, but Lövkvist also displaced Brioches La Boulangère's Franck Bouyer, who had been the leader of the Circuit de la Sarthe since the race began in Saint-Jean-de-Monts four days ago.
"He wasn't going fast enough", he said frankly when asked about his breakaway companion Moreau. Lövkvist's lead reached a maximum of 13 minutes and still had 5'30 advantage on the bunch when he reached the final circuit of Le Mans, where he had to climb the gruelling côte de Gazonfier four times. "The last time, I almost fell, I was so tired," he explained. "I went backwards I think. Then I looked in direction to the top and I said to myself, 'Yes, you can do it.'"
FdJeux.com directeur sportif Marc Madiot, a renowned talent-spotter, is already fond his new-found protégé: "Physically and mentally, this guy has all the qualities to become a super champion", he said. Madiot became interested in Lövkvist at last year's Tour de l'Avenir, where he finished sixth overall and enjoyed a brief spell in the leader's jersey. Before that, with Team Bianchi Scandinavia directed by Tommy Prim, he had won the Circuit des Ardennes in almost his first race as a senior, and at last year's World's in Hamilton, Lövkvist finished fourth in the espoirs (U23) time trial behind Germany's Marcus Fothen.
Until Friday, only two riders had won the Circuit de la Sarthe aged 20: Bernard Hinault in 1975 and Greg LeMond in 1980. And having turned 20 less than a week ago, Lövkvist is surely the youngest.
Home-town win for Dekker
Not too far away from the cobbles of Roubaix, Rabobank's Erik Dekker signalled a return to his previous winning form by taking a solo victory at Saturday's Ronde van Drenthe in the Netherlands, which started and finished in his home town of Hoogeveen.
The flying Dutchman rode away from a group of eight riders with 18 kilometres remaining in the gruelling 202 kilometre event, which saw just 47 finishers from 138 starters and contained 12 cobbled sections, eventually crossing the line 19 seconds ahead of David McKenzie (Navigators) and Simone Cadamuro (De Nardi). Dekker's previous best results in this race were second and third, but he had never won the Ronde van Drenthe.
For 33 year-old Dekker, his first victory in 2004 could well prove a decisive turning point after injury and crashes have prevented one of the peloton's most cunning riders relive his glory days of three to four years ago, which saw him win the World Cup (2001), the San Sebastian (2000) and Amstel Gold (2001) classics, four stages of the Tour de France (three in 2000 and one in 2001), and the national road time trial championship (2001). Prior to Saturday's victory, Dekker came 11th in Milan-San Remo and finished fifth in the Ronde van Vlaanderen behind winner Stefen Wesemann (Telekom).
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)