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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition News for April 13, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Tafi wants a fast race

By Chris Henry in Compiegne

Andrea Tafi
Photo: © Jeff Tse
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At a press conference on Saturday in Compiegne, CSC's Andrea Tafi outlined his goals for Paris-Roubaix. The 1999 winner will be riding a Cervelo steel SuperProdigy* bike for the race, along with the rest of his team. Tafi hopes that his form is right, after having a less than brilliant performance at Flanders.

"Last year my form was excellent for Flanders, and I had a very special day," he said. "This year I didn't have that day, I was just at my standard level. Tomorrow is a different race. I have different ambitions, and I have a strong team around me."

For Roubaix, the tactics are simple for Tafi and his team. "When I win big races, it's because I attack," he stated emphatically. "It is better for my team to attack than to follow Quick-Step. It's important for the team to be at the front before the first section of pavé, then stay together."

"For me it is very important to go fast, and it's very important that it doesn't rain! Maybe some other guys like the rain, but not me. In the rain it is harder to go fast."

"When I won in 1999, there was more tension in the [Mapei] team. Things were more complicated. This week I've worked very well, only thinking of Sunday. I'm very happy because the team is with me completely. Wednesday after Gent-Wevelgem, I organised a dinner for my teammates. A good Italian dinner, with good food. The team is extremely motivated."

Tafi's bike for P-R
Photo: © CN
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Andrea Tafi has a piece of Paris-Roubaix back home in Italy. "In my house I have one stone [Paris-Roubaix trophy]. I want another to balance it out," he said.

Tafi's favourites are Museeuw, Van Petegem, Boonen, VDB, Pieri and Baldato.

*The CSC bike for Roubaix is a steel SuperProdigy frame, although Tafi used an aluminum frame in Flanders. The steel machine has a slightly longer top tube, as the aluminum frame didn't have quite enough clearance for the 700x28 tires. The whole team is riding steel tomorrow, according to Gerard Vroomen from Cervelo. The inner chainrings are 46 tooth.

Kirsipuu not super confident

Jaan Kirsipuu
Photo: © Jeff Tse
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Ag2r's team leader Jaan Kirsipuu told Cyclingnews in Compiegne today that "I hope I've recovered enough [from a recent bout of 'flu]. I'll try to follow the best guys as much as possible. The team is going well, but this is a special race. It takes a real specialist, and we don't have many in the team."

Museeuw the top favourite

Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step-Davitamon) is the top favourite going into Paris-Roubaix tomorrow. The Lion of Flanders has recovered from his sickness and injury problems that have bothered him in the last few weeks, and prevented him from being there at the end in the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

"I wasn't top form for the Ronde van Vlaanderen," Museeuw told a press conference in Bouvines. "I wasn't as self confident as I am now. That's why I did a few silly things. In hindsight I should have followed Van Petegem. I didn't know that my condition was as good as it was. When I am sure of that, I race more calculatedly and my plan often works."

Are you 100 percent? "I'll know that in Roubaix," he replied. "One thing is sure, I know that I'll ride the final if there's no bad luck on the way....And if I have the choice, I prefer to win solo."

The Quick.Step team did reconnoitre parts of the parcours on Friday, but Museeuw said that's more of a tradition than anything. "After Wednesday [Gent-Wevelgem] I didn't train a lot, my preparation has been done," he said. "You ride a few sections and you test your equipment. I already knew that Time makes good bikes. The first time I won, I didn't scout the parcours at all. In the Ronde, I know every bend, every section of cobbles. It's filed on my hard drive [points to his head]. Paris-Roubaix is different. When I ride one section of cobbles, I don't know which one comes next."

When asked about the weather, Museeuw was ambivalent. "The weather makes no difference to how the race unfolds. If it is raining, the risk of crashing is bigger but never in the front. I have no preferences."

He's also confident in his team, which contains four leaders and four very strong workers. "With Knaven, VDB and Boonen we have a strong team. I lost Gent-Wevelgem to Frison as a young rider so Tom [Boonen] could still have a terrific career ahead of him."

Museeuw wants to see a Flemish rider win again on Sunday, "But that won't be because of a lack of foreign competition, just because we are stronger. Pieri, Tafi? I'm not giving any names, but I could give you ten favourites."

Winning Paris-Roubaix would mean that Museeuw would equal Roger De Vlaeminck's success. However Museeuw said that, "I'd have preferred to win the Ronde for a fourth time compared to a fourth Paris-Roubaix win...I don't feel at home in Northern France, also because I'm only there once a year. Well, the Ronde is past. For those who still don't want to believe it: I was sick and that made me vulnerable in the race."

Depending on how you count race wins, a win in Paris-Roubaix could be Museeuw's 100th (or 60th or 103rd) career win. A firmer statistic is that it would be the 50th Belgian triumph in the "Hell of the North".

Boonen better

Last year in his first Paris-Roubaix, 21 year old Tom Boonen (US Postal) finished third behind the experienced Johan Museeuw and Steffen Wesemann. Riding in front for most of the day, Boonen was mainly working for his team leader George Hincapie, but when the latter fell into a ditch while the two were chasing Museeuw, Boonen was left to his own devices on the pavé. This year, riding for Quick.Step-Davitamon, he already has a 4th place in Het Volk and a third in Gent-Wevelgem, and says that he's feeling better than ever.

"Whether it's one in the Ronde van Vlaanderen or in Paris-Roubaix: a cobble is a cobble; it will remain just as hard," he told Het Nieuwsblad today. "Me being in the same team as Johan Museeuw or with George Hincapie, it only differs little. Good legs, being in the front and luck are the deciding factors. Even if I feel good, maybe even better than last year, still I keep hoping to be with the strongest ones in the race."

Boonen points out that the team is much stronger: "We have four riders (Museeuw, VDB, Knaven and Boonen) on the same level and the idea is that us four go as far as possible." He said that if he has to give his wheel to a stronger teammate in the unlikely event that there are no cars nearby, then he will do it.

Boonen is now just 22, whereas Museeuw, who has won this race three times, is 37. He's a young man who says he's not in a hurry, but is still very hungry. "I haven't taken the time to grow, as Museeuw advised me," said Boonen. "But I prefer to get success rather sooner than later, what you have achieved no-one can take away from you any more."

Four bikes for the "Leeuw Van Vlaanderen"

Museeuw's Time machine
Photo: © CN
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Johan Museeuw will have four bikes at his disposal in "the Hell". "Two newly designed Time frames and a longer frame with a higher, more bent front fork, to scoop up the competition," explained team director Wilfried Peeters. The other Quick.Step-Davitamon leaders, VDB, Boonen and Knaven, have also got these frames. The team will ride on Hutchinson 25's.

Also see: A comparison between the Time VX Pro and the Time VX Pro modified for Paris-Roubaix in our photo gallery.

Frank Vandenbroucke not heavy enough

One of the four Quick.Step-Davitamon riders of the Apocalypse, Frank Vandenbroucke, says that he's a favourite "but not a top favourite" for Paris-Roubaix. "To be honest, I'm 10 kilos too light to beat the cobbles," he told Het Laatste Nieuws. "So I'll have to use my brains, like in the RvV, to have a good race. In the last 30 kilometres, I want to be within the top eight of the race."

Vandenbroucke rated Van Petegem as his other main favourite, "...after Museeuw and Boonen!"

Frank Vandenbroucke has only raced Paris-Roubaix twice previously, finishing 7th in 1999 and pulling out in 2001. "After Wallers and the Mons-en-Pévèle sector, there are no cobbles for a while. What makes a difference tactically. If you are doing the forcing yourself there, you're destroying yourself completely. So every bit of help is welcome. From Cysoing and the Carrefour de l'Arbre, it's every man for himself, trying to keep the competition behind."

"Paris-Roubaix has always impressed me the most of all the Classics. This race makes me dream," concluded VDB.

Van Petegem realistic

Peter Van Petegem
Photo: © Jeff Tse
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The Belgian press has renewed its friendship with a successful Peter Van Petegem, winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and holder of the World Cup jersey. In the past few years Van Petegem has often been overlooked, as he is someone who targets certain races and does not like the Tour de France. Van Petegem had the chance to express his feelings after winning the Ronde for a second time last weekend, emphatically stating: "No, I'm not lazy!" after choosing not to ride Gent-Wevelgem.

Being a realist and knowing that the interest will only last up until the last of the spring classics has been ridden, Peter Van Petegem has been giving a number of interviews in the lead up to Paris-Roubaix weekend.

"Of course I would like to win Paris-Roubaix, but I'm not preoccupied with the thought that it has been since 1977 that someone won the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix in one season," he told the Belgian VUM newspapers. "I know it would have been possible to do so in 1999 as well. But after the RVV I was partying too much then. But hey, that was all part of it. After all it was the first big Classic win for me. Afterward I heard that Cees Priem, my team manager at that time, was happy that I didn't win Paris-Roubaix in '99 as it would have meant a substantial increase in my salary," he laughed.

Keen to downplay his reputation of hitting the beer a bit too often, Van Petegem said, "On TV people see you holding a beer and they think that you've emptied a barrel. The ones who were there can confirm that I kept things really quiet."

In Peter's opinion, the weather doesn't play any role. "It's always something: it's dusty, or we'll be sliding all over the place. In a dry "Hell" you will have more riders in the front that you wouldn't have expected there. The most important thing is that the form is good and that I have guys like Vansevenant, Hoste, Van Bon and Eeckhout with me."

"In Paris-Roubaix it's always difficult as a team to organise a pursuit, certainly after Wallers: here the peloton falls apart in several bunches, you're losing all your teammates because they fell or gave you their wheel."

Last year, in wet conditions, the Lotto team didn't show themselves because of bad tyres. "They were perfect in dry weather, but in the rain after 50 km, we were slipping all the time and couldn't keep straight. This year, we will use tubulars. I got some cyclo-cross tubulars from Mario De Clercq, but I can't use them because of the sponsors. There will be no special equipment, or maybe yes, I'll put my saddle the other way round!"

Cofidis boys hopeful

The Cofidis team contains, among others, Nico Mattan, Jo Planckaert, Philippe Gaumont and Chris Peers, all experienced cobbles riders. Mattan says he will "try to colour the finale of Paris-Roubaix, like I did in the Ronde, only my back is sore, pain that is going to my neck and calf. I went to the osteopath on Friday, and did a shorter parcours reconnaissance on Thursday."

Cofidis brakes
Photo: © Jeff Tse
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Jo Planckaert is also not positive about his form. "For Paris-Roubaix, you should be 120 percent, but I'm still sick with diarrhoea. I don't have too much confidence for Sunday, but maybe I'll have some chances with an early break, like Boonen last year."

The Cofidis team will be riding special cyclo-cross bikes for the race with centre pull brakes and Vittoria Special Pavé tyres. Nico Mattan will not however, "This bike is good on the cobbles, but there is also 200km of asphalt," he said.

Nijs at the end

Paris-Roubaix will see the end of Sven Nijs' road season, which followed straight on from his successful but exhausting 'cross season. "My ambition is to finish as well as possible, and I know I'll have to try to start on the cobbles in front of the favourites," said Nijs, hinting at an early breakaway. "Because if they're doing the forcing on the cobbles, I'll have to pass I'm sure. My winter was tough enough and I haven't done enough races over 200 km."

Credit Agricole bikes

The Credit Agricole team will for the most part be relying on their Look KG381i bikes, with some modifications. Wider tires, double handlebar tape, stronger bottle cages and a 46 tooth inner chain ring are the main modifications.

Weather report: sunny and dry

For the last two years, cycling fans have been lucky in Paris-Roubaix, with rain and mud adding a whole new dimension to the toughest classic of them all. This year in all probability, the elements will be kind, as dry and sunny conditions are predicted for Sunday, with a southeasterly wind blowing across the riders' backs. In the morning in Compiegne, it will be between 6 and 8 degrees for the start, reaching a pleasant maximum of between 13 and 16 by the time the riders reach the Roubaix velodrome in the late afternoon.

Live Coverage

Cyclingnews will be providing live coverage of the 101st Paris-Roubaix, from start to finish on Sunday. Coverage begins at 11:00 CEST/4:00am EST (America East Coast)/1:00am PST (America West Coast)/19:00 AEST (Australia East Coast). In addition, we'll be posting full results, report and photos right after the race.

More Paris-Roubaix information

Full preview
Course Map
Start List

Ullrich more than happy with debut

Jan Ullrich
Photo: © AFP
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Jan Ullrich has started his comeback to racing well, having finished the Circuit de la Sarthe, his first race in more than a year, in 20th place. The Team Coast rider finished in the pack most days and picked up a 30th place in the time trial, a discipline in which he has won World Championships.

"I'm more than satisfied and I'm even surprised, that I could already ride so well after 14 months," he told DPA after the final stage. Ullrich now hopes to continue his comeback in the Vuelta a Aragon, but things are still not clear with his licence.

Team Coast has yet to deposit the three month bank guarantee with the UCI, required to cover Ullrich's salary in case of disputes. "Until now, we received nothing," said the UCI's Enrico Carpani on Friday. "The rider was able to race until today. Now it is up to Mr Dahms, we are waiting for Coast."

Ullrich was only allowed to start the race after receiving a rescue package from Bianchi and special permission from the UCI. It's now likely that Ullrich's manager Wolfgang Strohband will meet with Coast boss Günther Dahms and UCI president Hein Verbruggen next week in Aigle, Switzerland.

Freddie Fu Cycling Team

The Freddie Fu Cycling Team is back on the US National Circuit this year. Once again focusing on criteriums, the team will debut at the Tour of Somerville in NJ.

The team lost Tania Duff-Miller to Diet Rite and Becky Conzelman to a full track schedule, but will be joined by Leeanne Manderson (Aus) and last year's late season addition Lenora Felker (USA). The team is looking forward to another successful season on the National Criterium circuit.

Full team roster

Heartkids Cycle Challenge

Taking place at Calder Park Raceway in Victoria on May 4 is the Heartkids Cycle Challenge, a charity ride to help fund the development of a Family Resource Centre at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. The event is endorsed by Olympic Gold Medallists Scott McGrory and Ian Thorpe (via his Youth Foundation). Scott and Donna McGrory became involved after they lost their child Alexander due to heart problems.

The event will involve riders of all abilities in a 'Le Mans' style bike marathon. The marathon is a 12 hour ride that will start at 7am and finish at 7pm. Teams of riders will ride in relay style continuously for 12 hours around the 2.28 km track. Prizes will be awarded on the day, for example, for the most colourfully dressed team, the team that raises the most sponsorship and more. Spot prizes will also be awarded.

A carnival atmosphere will be provided for spectators and their families. Bring a picnic lunch, chair or blanket, sit on the grassy banks of the track and enjoy the entertainment.

For more info:

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)