First Edition Cycling News for April 18, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry
39th Amstel Gold Race
Boogerd top favourite again
Photo: © Bert Geerts
Dutchman Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) is for the seventh year in a row
the great favourite for Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, the fourth round of
the men's World Cup. Boogerd has finished on the podium four times including
victory in 1999, and will probably be the most marked man tomorrow. But
his team has enough depth to support Boogerd, with Erik Dekker and Oscar
Freire also candidate winners.
"This is my race," Boogerd told Het Nieuwsblad. "Although
the five time winner Jan Raas will always remain Mister Amstel Gold
Race for the Dutch. In his time they spoke of the Amstel Gold Raas.
But I'm tremendously proud that my compatriots associate me at this moment
with this race.
"In my head, I have the necessary doubts again, but that is not a bad
sign. In the meantime I have been holding back a bit in order to keep
myself really sharp. Since the Ronde van Vlaanderen I started in Gent-Wevelgem,
but after that I haven't race. I don't know what my form is like."
Boogerd added that the new finish on the Cauberg has given the Gold
Race an extra degree of difficulty. "One thing I know for sure: since
last year, with the new finale, the Amstel Gold Race has grown to the
most difficult and toughest race of the spring season."
Erik Dekker: "I'm a major contender"
Photo: © Bert Geerts
In 2001, Rabobank's Erik Dekker won the 36th edition of Amstel Gold race,
only one year after having taken the final step towards becoming one of
the best known cyclists in the peloton thanks to his three Tour de France
stage victories. But in 2002 and 2003, things went off the rails with
two serious injuries that prevented him from riding. The comeback road
has been long, and Cyclingnews' Gabriella Ekström spoke to Erik
about it at his home in Belgian Meerle, located close to the Dutch border,
just a few days before the 2004 Amstel Gold Race.
Amstel Gold Race, with its multiple short climbs, suits a classy rouleur
like Erik Dekker like a glove. "It's a beautiful race with a course that
suits me perfectly. Of course, being a Dutch World Cup makes it an important
race to me and to the team, but even if it was ridden in Sweden" he says
with a hint towards my origin, "it would still be a very significant race!
A World Cup race always means a great deal to the sponsors, and the team
that wins it, and nonetheless the rider who ends up on the podium. Except
for me, we also have Michael Boogerd and Oscar Freire, who will be serious
contenders for the title. The fact that we have such a wonderful team
built around the race makes it even more important and exciting. It makes
it a bit fun, too!"
here for the complete interview
No leader for T-Mobile
Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: CN
T-Mobile is taking a slightly unconventional approach compared with the
other teams at this year's Amstel Gold Race. Despite featuring the defending
champion, Alexandre Vinokourov in its squad, T-Mobile will not be working
for any rider in particular.
"Everyone is ready to give everything for each other," said team manager
Walter Godefroot on the team's website. "We therefore have eight workers
and no leader. Everyone is in a position to try and win the race, and
that makes us so unpredictable."
The team would like to hold onto the World Cup lead with Steffen Wesemann,
"However he's only a couple of points in front of Oscar Freire," added
Godefroot. "A lot depends on how the race develops. We will always be
active in any case."
T-Mobile (as Telekom) has won the Amstel Gold Race three times, with
Vinokourov (2003), Zabel (2000), and Riis (1997).
Van Petegem doesn't rule himself out
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
Although his spring season hasn't been completely ordinary, with a 16th
in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and 6th in Paris-Roubaix, Peter Van Petegem
(Lotto-Domo) believes he has a classic win in his legs, and hopes that
will happen in tomorrow's Amstel Gold Race.
It's hard for him not to be disappointed when last year he won the RVV-Paris-Roubaix
double, but Van Petegem realises that luck still plays a role in cycling.
Last week, just like Johan Museeuw, Van Petegem punctured at a critical
time in Paris-Roubaix and never had a chance to play a part in the finale.
He and Museeuw closed to within 19 seconds of the leading four man break
at one stage, but their long rivalry seemingly prevented them from cooperating
Although disappointing in last year's Amstel, Peter Van Petegem remains
focused on the Dutch World Cup, where he has finished in the top 10 three
times in the last four years. "I don't want to rush myself," he was quoted
in Gazet van Antwerpen. "Not even through frustration or anger.
Anger is a bad guide. I've been a professional for 12 years and won only
classics in two seasons. That's the reality. But I know that I was always
good in the Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Winning is something else
again. Luck is also necessary there. The most important thing as that
I maintain myself with the elite. Then everything remains possible."
Vandenbroucke remains motivated
Despite two bad rides as a result of punctures in the Ronde van Vlaanderen
and Paris-Roubaix, Frank Vandenbroucke (Fassa Bortolo) remains optimistic
that he will be able to do something more in the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche
Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
"I'm ready for my week, Vandenbroucke told Gazet van Antwerpen.
"I'm sitting perfectly according to plan, I feel completely like I want
to feel now. I have power in the legs. The morale is 100 percent sunny.
I've trained for the last few days for hours in the Ardennes. I've seldom
felt so good on all the climbs. Really great. Super. Out of that, I take
it that I will also feel like that on Sunday and next week in Wallonia."
Jörg Jaksche out of Amstel Gold
An unfortunate crash during a training session on Saturday morning means
that Jörg Jaksche (Team CSC) will be out for the rest of the spring. The
German rider crashed a few meters from the hotel in Lanaken, Belgium,
where the team is staying. He was coming back from a final recon of the
route for tomorrow's Amstel Gold Race. He was taken to hospital in Genk
on Saturday afternoon, where Jaksche was told he has a minor fracture
on his left elbow. This means he will not be able to ride a bike for at
least 10 days.
"It was such bad luck," said Jaksche. "We'd actually finished training,
when I crashed into a rider from the Quick Step team just outside our
hotel. I wasn't going fast at all, but was totally unprepared and I landed
directly on my arm. At first we didn't think it was serious, but went
to the hospital just in case. Even though it's a minor fracture, it means,
I have to take a very badly timed involuntary break.
"It's incredibly unlucky, because I was looking forward to riding in
The Classics very much and Tour de Romandie is a race, which would have
been perfectly suited for me. I have trained hard with these particular
races in mind, and I'm very disappointed to have to withdraw from them.
This is, however, the sort of thing, which happens sometimes, and instead
I now get the break I should have had after Tour of Romandy. After that
I have to start training again as soon as possible," added Jaksche.
Saeco ready for final spring classics
The Saeco team, still on the hunt for an elusive spring classic victory,
is looking to Danilo Di Luca and Mirko Celestino to produce the goods
in the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Di
Luca is in good form at the moment, just missing out on a stage win in
the Tour of the Basque country last week, normally a good predictor for
the Ardennes classics. Mirko Celestino will be there to support Di Luca
or go for his own chances, if the opportunity arises.
For Amstel, the remainder of the squad is composed of Gabriele Balducci,
Stefano Casagranda, Eddy Mazzoleni, Evgueni Petrov, Marius Sabaliauskas
and Alessandro Spezialetti.
For Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Saeco will field Mirko
Celestino, Danilo Di Luca, Gerrit Glomser, Eddy Mazzoleni, Evgueni Petrov,
Marius Sabaliauskas, Alessandro Spezialetti and Gorazd Stangelj.
Four Saeco riders are also competing as part of a Saeco-Saunier Duval
mixed team in next week's Tour de Georgia in the USA (April 20-25): Salvatore
Commesso, Joerg Ludewig, Nicola Gavazzi and Antonio Bucciero.
Merckx excited for Ardennes
Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo)
Photo ©: CN
Quietly getting ready for his beloved Ardennes classics, Lotto-Domo's
Axel Merckx counts himself among those prepared to take charge of the
racing in the next week. Beginning with this Sunday's Amstel Gold Race,
admittedly not Merckx's favourite, the crunch time begins with Flèche
Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège just around the corner.
After teammate Peter Van Petegem's disappointment at the Tour of Flanders
and Paris-Roubaix, Lotto is anxious for a big result in the Ardennes.
"Amstel is a selective race. At the end the strongest riders are always
in front," Merckx told La Dernière Heure on the eve of the
fourth World Cup classic of the season. "With its current position on
the calendar, it's an excellent step up in effort, and at the same time
a perfect rehearsal for Liège-Bastogne-Liège."
Last year Merckx was quiet at Amstel, but went on to animate the finale
in Liège, attacking solo from a small leading group with 25km to
go. His efforts didn't end in victory, but the memory gives him more motivation
for 2004, with the tough training in his legs he hopes will pay off.
"Last Tuesday I did a seven and a half hour ride!" he said. "My computer
said 216 kilometres. I definitely have ants in my legs before the Ardennaises
and I think I'm in good form. The last three days have been all about
For Merckx, a strong showing in the spring classics could prove critical
in securing a contract for 2005, which he does not currently have in hand.
Either way, he is counting on Lotto-Domo to give home favourites Rabobank
a run for their money in the Netherlands this weekend. "The whole team
is going really well right now," he added, noting in particular the excellent
spring form of Leon Van Bon, Leif Hoste, and team leader Van Petegem.
Cyclingnews will be covering the 39th Amstel Gold Race live
from start to finish. Coverage starts at 10:15 CEST (Europe)/4:15 EDT
(USA East)/1:15 PDT (USA West)/18:15 AEST (Australia East).
Map and time schedule
Robin hopes for progress
Jean-Cyril Robin, one of the elder statesmen of the French peloton,
emerged from the French federation's meeting held Friday with what seems
to be a common impression: that cycling is getting closer to putting itself
back on the right track in the wake of repeated doping scandals, but much
work remains. Robin echoed sentiments expressed by others recently that
despite the shock of the Festina affair in 1998, the sport has not been
focusing enough on the problems of doping. Robin and other riders present
at the meeting called by FFC president Jean Pitallier expressed their
desire for greater transparency in all levels of the sport, including
additional out of competition drug testing.
"Yesterday I learned a lot of things..." Robin told l'Equipe
Saturday. "I realized that after the shock of 1998, a number of meetings
like this were held. However, certain reforms never made their way to
us, the riders! We thought we were on the road to change, but we've realized
that's not the case."
Robin also spoke of the need for solidarity among riders, teams, etc.,
urging his fellow riders to feel comfortable speaking out about problems
and concerns in the sport, something he feels wasn't possible in the wake
of the Festina scandal.
"For several years, riders haven't been talking, as if they've been
afraid of expressing themselves, afraid of the reaction from the sport,"
Robin explained. "Things were said in little groups, but there was nothing
Calling the current cloud of doping allegations a great injustice, Robin
made no effort to cover up the problem. "It's tough to deal with because
there are teams, and there are riders - including at Cofidis - who work
in a proper manner," he said. "But it's also true that where there's smoke,
"At the meeting, I was shocked that certain people still said they were
just learning about these problems," Robin added. "You just can't say
that! Today, if people can't see it, it's because they won't open their
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)