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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest News for April 14, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones

Museeuw: "This was the last time"

Johan Museeuw
Photo: © Jeff Tse
Click for larger image

After a less than spectacular day at Paris-Roubaix, three-time winner and classics man of a decade, Johan Museeuw appeared to confirm that he would not line up again for another edition of the Hell of the North. "It was a dark day, nothing went according to plan," Museeuw commented after the finish in Roubaix. In an interview published in Monday's edition of l'Equipe, Museeuw revealed his disappointment following the race, but also expressed his satisfaction with his illustrious career.

"Lotto did a great job, as we have done in other years," he said of Peter Van Petegem's win. "Last season, I was at 200% of my ability and had 100% luck through the whole race. This year I was at 97% of my ability but I experienced every kind of bad luck. Today I couldn't be the best Museeuw."

Although it has been somewhat certain that this year would be Museeuw's final year in the peloton, his comments following the race leave little doubt. "I wish it weren't the case, but this bad day confirms that it's time to stop. I've taken the start sixteen times in Paris-Roubaix, but I won't be back. As a rider, this was the last time."

Museeuw has yet to set a date for his retirement, preferring to make the decision when the moment hits him. Only his wife and children will be privy to that information, he said. His disappointment following Roubaix is not a sign of resignation, however. "Tonight, I'm a happy man," he noted. "I've already gone without a win in the Flandrian classics, but following that I've gone on to win at Amstel or the Championship of Zurich. That can be a nice consolation, even if it never replaces the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix."

Belgian papers on Van Petegem

Peter Van Petegem
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

Not surprisingly after winning the Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, the Belgian press has given Peter Van Petegem a good wrap today. The 33 year old has been in his best shape ever, and has had everything fall into place in the last two weeks.

Het Nieuwsblad headlined him "Peter the Great" and the "Master of the Hell", pointing out that even Eddy Merckx never won the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix in the same year.

Furthermore, there was a comparison with Johan Museeuw, who with 11 World Cup wins is considered the greatest modern classics rider. "Van Petegem is a good friend of Museeuw, but at the same time a little bit of a contrast," wrote Het Nieuwsblad. "Museeuw regularly turns out the big numbers, oozing panache. Van Petegem does it differently. A bit cooler, more calculated. If you can, after 260 km, play with the victory in Paris-Roubaix, in this masterly fashion, then you have in your head something more than the average peloton rider."

In Het Laatste Nieuws, there was discussion of Van Petegem's salary. "At the end of last year, Van Petegem's salary was revealed on the front page of his newspaper. 620,000 euro, around 25 million francs. 25 million for the best classics rider of the spring season, that's ordinary pay for that sort of work. The ages of the ripe 30 year olds most strengthen Van Petegem's conviction that he can retire as one of the greats, who until the previous week, let us honestly say no-one has yet seen."

De Standaard put forth, "2003 is already the strongest season ever of Van Petegem, who at 33 is obviously at the high point of his abilities. If he holds this level, he can try and create more history next Sunday by winning the Gold Race."

"If Van Petegem can stay off the Leffe for a week, don't be surprised if he also finishes well in the Amstel Gold Race," wrote Gazet van Antwerpen.

La Dernière Heure commented that, "Johan Museeuw perhaps had bad luck, but the honest truth is that he was not in optimal condition. Full stop."

In the Netherlands, De Volkskrant also discussed his finances. "Van Petegem will also profit financially. The latter counts a lot for the man who not only cycles for a living, but is also a pure professional. With as little effort as possible, the money has come in and that has been a total success for him for 12 years. Van Petegem rides ultra-calculatingly, a style that doesn't quickly lend itself to a great deal of popularity. In or out of the peloton. He is certainly no surveyor, but he is adept in measuring distances and depths exactly and taking the right trajectory."

Van Petegem to visit Belgian premier

In recognition of his accomplishments these past eight days, Peter Van Petegem has been invited to pay a visit to Belgian premier Guy Verhofstadt in Brussels. Verhofstadt, who occasionally rides a bike in between running the country, will meet Van Petegem, Lotto-Domo team manager Christophe Sercu, directeur sportif Marc Sergeant, Eddy Merckx and Roger De Vlaeminck on Monday afternoon at 5:00pm at his Brussels residence.

More Paris-Roubaix reactions

Every rider has a story of good luck, or more often bad luck, following Paris-Roubaix. Team tactics still plan an important role, but Paris-Roubaix is often a more individual race than most road events.

Andrea Tafi (CSC, 5th)

"I had four flats and crashed. That's how it went for me at Roubaix. I was feeling good and the team did a really good job working for me, but I was quite unlikely. On the pave I had two flats. First the rear tire, then I changed the bike. I had my second flat on the pave right when Van Petegem attacked. But that's the way cycling goes."

After the finish, Tafi also insisted that this would not be his last Paris-Roubaix.

Daniele Nardello (Telekom, 8th)

"I had a great race. I felt good, even if Saturday night I had a sore back and even felt as though I had a bit of a cold. At Roubaix, one can always do big things. If I hadn't flatted, I think I could have ridden to win."

Nicolas Portal (Ag2R-Prévoyance, 16th)

Nicolas Portal
Photo: © CN
Click for larger image

"I like this race, and with my mountain bike experience I knew I could finish. I asked to ride to prove to Vincent [Lavenu] that I was capable, but I didn't think I would do this. I flatted one time, and another time passed a wheel to Jaan Kirsipuu."

"What impressed me was the speed and the fact that you have to pay attention to so many things. This race is just as mental as it is physical."

Stuart O'Grady (Crédit Agricole, 18th)

"I'm very disappointed and very tired. I felt good and I flatted two times, notably when Van Petegem attacked. I felt very strong, maybe in the best form of my life, and I missed the cut. But that's how it is. Anyway, I'll start again next year."

Medical controls

Sunday morning before the start of Paris-Roubaix, 38 medical controls were performed. Tests were carried out for riders from Ag2R-Prévoyance, Team Coast, Crédit Agricole, Domina Vacanze-Elitron, and Saeco. All riders tested were declared fit to ride

Lefevere credits Van Petegem

Patrick Lefevere, director of the Quick.Step-Davitamon team, has directed his riders to an impressive seven victories through the years. The likes of Museeuw and Boonen didn't make the race on Sunday, but Lefevere was content to give credit where credit was due, congratulating Peter Van Petegem on his victory.

"He earned the kind of victory that I dream about, and the type of win I enjoy when it's one of my riders who wins," Lefevere told La Dernière Heure. "We have a right to be upset, but within limits. In sports there are no miracles. Van Petegem was lucky, if I dare say it, to get sick before Milan-San Remo and have the time to recover before the races in Flanders."

Unlike Van Petegem, Lefevere found his star Johan Museeuw suffering on the eve of the Tour of Flanders, and not at his best for the two biggest spring classics.

X-rays for Vandenbroucke

Frank Vandenbroucke Photo: © Jeff Tse
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Frank Vandenbroucke (Quick.Step-Davitamon) will undergo x-rays today following a crash in Paris-Roubaix. Vandenbroucke went down along with Alessio's Fabio Baldato before the first section of pavé at Troisvilles.

"Frank's handlebar hit his knee quite hard," directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters explained to La Dernière Heure. "He came up to me and said the pain was unbearable. I suggested he pull out at the feed zone. I don't think it would have done any good to force himself to finish in the velodrome in 20th place, and to risk in the process his chances for Amstel Gold Race and the Ardennes classics."

Vandenbroucke's crash was not thought to be too serious, but he will undergo tests to examine the extent of the injury.

Australian track coach satisfied

Thirteen Australians contested the UCI Track World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, claiming two gold and four bronze medals in a competition which featured 237 riders from 39 nations. All were competing for qualification for the the World Championships, beginning July 30th in southern China.

"We need to sit down and look at the overall results but I would have to say I am satisfied and give the team an 'A' report card," said head coach Martin Barras. A highlight of the event was Mark Renshaw's domination of the men's 30km points race. The 20 year old from New South Wales won gold when he lapped the field in a solo effort, but he also scored 63 points, 26 more than his nearest rival.

"I've had to come up with some new adjectives this year and Renshaw's ride was nothing short of imperial," said Barras. "He completely dominated the race in that he had the nous, the tactics and unbelievable form. He just had everything and he dominated at will."

Another Australian to claim gold was South Australian Luke Roberts, who won the 4km individual pursuit. Roberts, 26, was the silver medallist behind fellow Australian Brad McGee at last year’s World Championships in Denmark and was a member of the pursuit team that claimed the world crown.

"We've come to expect that sort of performance from Luke," said Barras. "With a minimum amount of work and preparation time his performance was very satisfying and he was in control of the event throughout the rounds."

Roberts also lined up in Capetown in the teams pursuit along with fellow world champion, Peter Dawson, Ashley Hutchinson, and 2002 junior individual pursuit world champion, Mark Jamieson. “Mark (Renshaw – also a member of the world champion pursuit team) was racing points, scratch and madison so it gave us the opportunity to break in Mark Jamieson in the senior line up,” said Barras.

“He exceeded our expectations and we’re happy to have claimed bronze and secured a teams pursuit place in China.” Barras said although Perth speedster Ryan Bayley did not medal in Capetown in the sprint he is pleased with the way the 21 year old is progressing. “He made a really important step forward this weekend in terms of confidence and the way he handled himself in the racing,” said Barras.

See: Results index

Verbrugghe confident for Ardennes

Despite a bout of tendonitis following the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Belgian Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Domo) expects to be ready for the Ardennes classics, where he has found success in recent years. "I think the condition is there, so I think both [Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège] will suit me if the tendonitis is gone," Verbrugghe commented in an interview on his web site. "Now it's also an advantage that Amstel comes before Liège since it gives me an extra week of recovery. Thankfully they made this change, otherwise I would have been in trouble."

Verbrugghe can also benefit from a more relaxed atmosphere within the team, thanks to Peter Van Petegem's back to back World Cup wins at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. "When a team wins two World Cup races, the season is already a success," said Verbrugghe. "We can finally ride without pressure since the papers have put a lot of pressure on the team, saying we haven't been successful."

As for his own concerns, Verbrugghe is confident for a quick recovery in time for his big objectives. "You should never say a rider won't go well because he has some small concerns," he noted. "If I arrive without any problems with the tendon at Flèche Wallonne, I'll be doubly motivated. Plus it somewhat reduces my role as a favourite."

Cassani suspended

Thirty one year old Alessio rider Enrico Cassani has been suspended by Alessio since he was found non-negative at the Tirreno-Adriatico. It has not been revealed which substance may have triggered the result, but team managher Bruno Cenghialta confirmed that Alessio had received an official communication from the UCI pertaining to Cassani's non-negative result. Cassani's lawyers are now asking for the counter analysis.

"We're really sorry to hear this," Cenghialta told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We gave a contract to Cassani, who didn't have one at the beginning of the season, but our rules are such that as soon as the rider is non-negative he's suspended. If the positive control is confirmed after the counter analysis, he'll be fired. Those are our rules, period."

Cassani seemed perplexed by the situation. "I haven't gotten any official communication from the UCI or the Italian federation, and I haven't even received anything official from the team," he explained. "The reason I'm not riding now is because I'm having knee problems. It's a pretty lousy time for me, because I was in good form and thought I could have done well in the classics."

The usual time for a counter analysis is up to 10 working days, when Cassani should receive notification about his situation.

Axelsson's admissions

Swedish rider Niklas Axelsson, who was found positive for EPO at the 2001 World's in Portugal and suspended for four years, has told Swedish TV that even before he was tested positive in Portugal he had used EPO and other substances.

"I took these things when I had a lot of pressure on me," he said, "when the directeur sportif was saying to me, 'if you don't win, we're not going to pay you.'"



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