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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 14, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones

Museeuw's Roubaix reality

Johan Museeuw
Photo ©: CN

Before, during, and after his final participation in Paris-Roubaix Sunday, Johan Museeuw experienced a series of moments which marked the turning point of a man leaving the sport in one of the races which brought him his greatest success. Up until the final phases of the race, Museeuw was among the strongest riders and in with a chance of a fairy tale fourth win, until a rear wheel puncture knocked him out of contention. Finishing in Roubaix arm in arm with compatriot Peter Van Petegem, Museeuw was in tears, hit with the emotion of an excellent performance, crushing bad luck, and an emotional final farewell to the pavé.

"It was too much for me," Museeuw told l'Equipe after the race. "My fourth win was so close, and I heard the psss of my puncture. Right then I knew that this time my career was over."

Museeuw still figured among the leaders, but his motivation to fight to the final metre alongside Van Petegem was gone. He admitted his head was elsewhere, that it was over.

"I believed that in my final Paris-Roubaix, luck was going to be on my side," he said. "That would have been too beautiful."

Museeuw enters his final race Wednesday, the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen, and he knows that important changes are just around the corner. Some things are bound to stay the same, however, and Museeuw isn't about to hang up his bike the day after his last race.

"I'm going to do a training ride of two hours, as usual," he said. "There will be a bit of nostalgia. The hardest thing will be to get in the car with Wilfried Peeters next Sunday at Amstel Gold Race. Then I'll realise quickly that I'm no longer a rider."

Van Petegem's gesture

Friends and rivals
Photo ©: Sirotti

After what he described as a super day at Paris-Roubaix, marked by the same bad luck as his rival Johan Museeuw, defending champion Peter Van Petegem had no problem offering a small gesture to Museeuw as they entered the Roubaix velodrome together, just 17 seconds behind the winning quartet. The two riders finished arm in arm in a display of solidarity for Museeuw's last appearance at Roubaix.

"It's too bad, because I was super and I still had plenty of reserves," Van Petegem said of the moment he punctured in the finale. "At the Carrefour de l'Arbre I was even stronger than last year.

"When I came up to Museeuw, I thought I still had a chance to win, but Museeuw had a problem with his derailleur and couldn't get on my wheel," Van Petegem added. "In the finale I attacked again to save my honour, but it was too late. Then in the velodrome, Johan asked me if we could finish together. Fifth or sixth, it didn't make a difference any more, and it was important to honour his last big race."

Museeuw's memories

After a storied career and highlights including a world championship and Belgian national titles, as well as 11 World Cup victories, Johan Museeuw himself offered his thoughts on the highlights and lowlights of his sixteen years in the professional ranks. It's hard to pick out highlights from a career such as Museeuw's, but when pressed, the Lion did rate his best achievements in the following order, as told to Het Nieuwsblad.

1. World Championships in Lugano, 1996: "The high point of my career. I've now taken out everything."

2. Ronde van Vlaanderen, 1995 (Museeuw's second Ronde win): "To finish solo is nicer. Today I was even better than two years ago."

3. Paris-Roubaix, 2002: "The attack was an inspiration of the moment. Once the decision is taken, it's a fight between life and death, but I won."

4. Ronde van Vlaanderen, 1998 (Museeuw's third Ronde win): "After this Ronde van Vlaanderen I'm again the greatest. It is a declaration that I make without wryness."

5. Belgian Championships, 1996: "I feel more of a Belgian with the tricolore than with a normal team jersey."

6. Yellow in the Tour (1993, 1994): "How many chances does a rider like me ever get to wear the yellow jersey? It was an enormous experience."

7. Two Tour stage wins, 1990: "A stage win was the big dream. I immediately obtained two."

8. GP Eddy Merckx, 1995 (where he beat Tony Rominger): "I'm certainly proud of this win. It will stand nicely in my palmarès."

9. Riding the 1989 Tour with Greg Lemond and helping to bridge a dangerous eight minute gap one day: "An unforgettable moment. I had thought of doing something myself on that day, but I was the only one at the side of Greg. He asked me to increase the tempo. Mottet and Fignon both tried to crack him on the way to Marseille, but it didn't work."

10. Amstel Gold Race, 1994. "Of course, I'm enormously happy that I could set things right after my defeat in the Ronde and the blackout in Paris-Roubaix. Life can be beautiful."

Museeuw's career has marked by incredible highs and incredible lows, including several career and even life-threatening injuries. Each time, Museeuw bounced back, something he attributes largely to the support of his faithful team director Patrick Lefevere.

"[Each injury] got me started again, as if I wanted to set myself up for a new challenge," Museeuw said of his various comebacks. "But behind all of that there was also Patrick Lefevere. Without him, without our collaboration, I wouldn't have earned this palmarès."

So what were Museeuw's worst moments? He offers his list:

1. Crash in Paris-Roubaix, 1998: "It was destiny, nothing else. But the pain I will never forget. It was like a thousand needles had been stuck into my body.

2. Motorbike crash, 2000: "I was afraid that I would never be satisfied with the level that I could get back to."

3. Broken thighbone at World Championships, 1992: "Everything shoots through you in a flash. The worst first: career finished, a permanent handicap. I was finally put at ease in Belgium when doctor Martens cheered me up."

4. Puncture in Paris-Roubaix, 2004: "It was going so well. I cried like a child. As a sportsman I have a big heart, but as a human being, I'm a simple Fleming of flesh and blood. With a small heart."

5. Beaten by Gianni Bugno in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, 1994: "The first time in my life that I lost sleep over cycling, for three nights."

Praise from the sport

Johan Museeuw earned his share of victories, establishing himself as the classics rider of his generation, and one of the best of all time. As he enters his final race, what do his rivals and peers think of the Lion of Flanders' career? Praise and admiration all around, as collected in Het Nieuwsblad.

Rik Van Steenbergen

"I admire Museeuw. He is so completely Flemish. A man of wind and cobbles."

Rik Van Looy

"He is without doubt the best classics rider of the last 10 years."

Eddy Merckx

"Museeuw certainly belongs with Van Steenbergen and Van Looy."

Fiorezni Magni

"I've won the Ronde three times, but the real Lion of Flanders is Museeuw."

Roger De Vlaeminck

"What he could bring to his profession in his lifetime, I couldn't. For that I admire him."

Jean-Marie Leblanc

"He collected more podium places in the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix than Merckx and Van Looy. That says enough."

Savoldelli could ride Tour

Former Giro d'Italia winner Paolo Savoldelli (T-Mobile), who suffered another serious crash at last weekend's Rund um Köln, may still have a chance to take part in this year's Tour de France. Savoldelli missed his first chance to ride the Tour with T-Mobile last year after a collision with a motorcycle forced him out of competition for several months, followed by an intestinal infection before July. The Italian suffered more head and facial injuries, as well as a broken arm in Sunday's crash.

"For now, it seems things are still possible," T-Mobile directeur sportif Mario Kummer said of Savoldelli's condition. "As for his participation in the Tour, I'm optimistic."

Savoldelli's arm should be healed in four to six weeks, and further examinations revealed that he has not fractured his clavicle as initially feared.

Rest for Omloop

Belgian champion Geert Omloop (MrBookmaker-Palmans) will not race any more until May. The winner of the GP Rudy Dhaenens has had health problems since the Driedaagse van De Panne, and requires some rest.

Van Hyfte back soon

Paul Van Hyfte (Vlaanderen-T Interim) will return to racing in the Vuelta a Rioja on April 22. Van Hyfte broke his elbow in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen on March 27.

Kerry Youth Tour

The 5th Kerry Youth Tour will be held in Killorglin, Ireland (Co. Kerry) from July 31-August 2, 2004. Race directors Miceal Concannon and Michael Carolan announced that the race would use the now traditional routes for this the 5th Kerry Youth Tour.

The opening stage will start in Beaufort on the fast Churchtown Stage, followed by a double stage on August 1, including a time trial in the morning and the Sunhill stage in the afternoon. The final stage will be run on the classic Donal McKenna circuit.

The 2004 Kerry Youth Tour will introduce some changes, including a separate prize category for the under 15, under 13 and under 11 riders. There will be separate stage end prizes for the riders in these categories and a jersey for the overall winner in each of age group.

The original purpose of the race was to allow all of our youth riders the opportunity to compete at an international competition. Composite teams will be allowed as usual. Entry forms and further details will be available after May 1.

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