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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition News for April 20, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Amstel Gold Race: favourites comments

On the eve of the 38th Amstel Gold Race, the round four of the World Cup, the various favourites for the race assessed their chances for the 250 km classic. With 31 climbs and the finish on the Cauberg, there will certainly be no bunch sprint to decide it. Could it be one of the following riders who finds themselves atop the victory dais tomorrow?

Don't miss Cyclingnews' live coverage of the event, starting from 10:20am CEST (04:20 EDT, 01:20 PDT, 18:20 AEST) on Sunday.

Michael Boogerd (Rabobank)

Michael Boogerd
Photo: © Bert Geerts
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The 1999 winner hopes that he can add a second Amstel to his palmares, and believes that things are falling into place. "Everything feels good," said the Dutchman to Het Nieuwsblad. "You haven't heard me say that I'll win, but it's good for me, yes."

Boogerd admits however that "I haven't been really good after my fall in the Ronde and the virus that I had. I was really happy that on Tuesday and Wednesday I could go well again."

Somewhat surprisingly, he says that he enjoyed the vibe at the Ronde van Vlaanderen more than anything. "The special feeling that I had for the Ronde I don't have now. No, not even for a World Cup race at home. Maybe it's because I've already won the Gold Race once. Furthermore, in Vlaanderen I raced over the terrain of Van Petegem and co. Now Peter comes to us. Never underestimate that man! He can do this too, I reckon. One of the super favourites."

Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo)

Peter Van Petegem
Photo: © Jeff Tse
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Peter Van Petegem is coming off back to back wins in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, two of the toughest one day races in the world to win. The World Cup leader has thus been spending more time giving interviews than cycling in the last few days. He was even invited to the official residence of Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt last Monday, an honour few riders have received.

"I found that really nice," he told Het Laatste Nieuws. "That means that you've done something special. But I'm keeping cool. I knew I was good, and I realize that I'll probably never be as lucky again as I was in the last two weeks....I won't say that I'm much stronger than I was in previous years. But in 2002 I was third in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and this year I won. How could that happen?"

Van Petegem gives himself a fighting chance in the Amstel too. "Everything is possible, but Sunday and next week (Liege-Bastogne-Liege) you'll see totally different start list. There are also the climbers present. Not that I'm afraid of them, but I find the hills and cobbles of the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix easier than in the Amstel. It has nothing to do with motivation, everything will depend on how I feel."

After Paris-Roubaix, Van Petegem said that "The tiredness has gone away since Wednesday. After a long training ride [not on the Amstel parcours] I felt the legs were OK again."

The Amstel is a lot tougher this year, with 31 climbs, the Keutenberg closer to the end and the finish on top of the Cauberg. "This doesn't mean it's going to be a spectacular race," states Van Petegem. "It's not because there are 31 hills in it that the race will be broken apart."

Finally, Van Petegem hopes that the Cauberg will bring him success as it did in 1998 during the World's in Valkenburg, where he finished second behind Oscar Camenzind. "I hope this hill will smile on me again on Sunday."

Lance Armstrong (US Postal presented by Berry Floor)

Lance Armstrong
Photo: © AFP
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Having twice finished second in this race, Lance Armstrong calls the Amstel Gold Race "My favourite classic. Again and again I've come close to winning, but never been able to do it. It's had a lot to do with the nature of the finish. With the line this year at the top of the Cauberg, it's a little bit better."

Armstrong has brought a good team to Maastricht for the Amstel, "Surrounded by Heras, Rubiera, Peña, Ekimov, Vandevelde, Van Heeswijk, Joachim, I'm not here to enjoy the sun and the beautiful landscape," he said. "We are starting with a very strong team, only Hincapie and Landis are missing. But, for more than half of them, including me, it'll be their first World Cup race. In previous years, I already had Milan-Sanremo and the Ronde in my legs, and that's a difference."

Armstrong is in full preparation for the Tour de France, but experienced a slight setback when he had to pull out of the Circuit de la Sarthe last week after only one and a half stages. "It's going according to plan, but I'm not where I finally have to be," he said, rating his condition at 75-80 percent. "I've almost forgotten my abandon in the Circuit de la Sarthe from stomach troubles. I stopped to prevent it getting worse."

After Amstel and Liege, Armstrong will not race during the month of May and some of June, preferring to train himself into Tour shape. "Of course I'm not sharp yet. Literally. Before the Tour I've still got to work off a couple of pounds," he said.

His final race before the Tour will be the Dauphiné Libéré, but he will not be taking it easy in the meantime. "If you add it up at the end of the year you'll see that there are less than 20 days off the bike. Even in winter I get up at 6. You don't win the Tour in the winter, but you can lose it then. The Tour is my life, the reason for my existence."

Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo)

Michele Bartoli
Photo: © Sirotti
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As the defending champion and a winner of six World Cup races during his career, Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo) should be counted among the favourites for this race. However, a fractured pelvis at the beginning of the year set back his plans, and it's surprising that he's been able to race the spring classics at all.

Bartoli told Het Laatste Nieuws that he had found new motivation from his friend Dario Pieri, who finished second in Roubaix. "In the week before Paris-Roubaix, we trained together and I think this ride brought him some luck. That's why we trained again together on Thursday, hoping this ride will have the same effect on me."

"I am, in spite of a lack of competition, fairly good. I lacked racing kilometres in Milan-Sanremo. That wasn't the case in the Ronde, I had good legs, I just didn't know where I would end up. I doubted myself and that's why I was so disappointed at the finish. On Sunday, I won't explore my own possibilities, but I'll definitely go for a win."

Frank Vandenbroucke (Quick.Step-Davitamon)

Frank Vandenbroucke
Photo: © Jeff Tse
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After finishing second in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Frank Vandenbroucke is ready for his two favourite spring classics: Amstel and Liege. "Having bad luck in Paris-Roubaix and abandoning after 90 kilometres means that I'm still very hungry," he said. "I want to satisfy this hunger in the remaining classics."

Vandenbroucke rode well in Wednesday's Scheldeprijs, attacking and splitting the bunch on the Pulderbos cobbles. "The condition is very good," he said. "I did even some training after the Scheldeprijs to get the distance of the Amstel in my legs."

Although it's a race that should suit him on paper, Vandenbroucke's best result in the Amstel is 21st, in 1996. "Now it'll be different: the Amstel is earlier this year, I'm not yet exhausted now, but still very focused. Also the different parcours is to my advantage. It can break up anywhere in the Amstel, but it's sure that there won't be a mass storming of the Cauberg. After the Keutenberg, at 12 kilometres from the finish, there will be less than ten riders left with a chance. Who? Di Luca, Basso, Van Petegem of course, a few Rabo's, maybe Armstrong and hopefully me too."

Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step-Davitamon)

Johan Museeuw
Photo: © Jeff Tse
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After winning Omloop Het Volk at the beginning of March, Johan Museeuw's season hasn't exactly gone to plan. Injured and sick before the Ronde, he showed glimpses of his best in that race and Gent-Wevelgem, but didn't have it in Paris-Roubaix. Now he hopes that his form is still improving in time for the Amstel, his last classic of the spring season.

"The Amstel is a mini Liege-Bastogne-Liege," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "That's what it was like earlier when I won it nine years ago, now even more with the finish atop the Cauberg. But a finish like that on top of a hill doesn't suit me so well. I really don't know how I'll end up. Also because the Amstel Gold Race is positioned differently on the calendar. Previously you knew that your condition was falling off. It was the finisher. Maybe it will be different for me now because I was not yet at the top in the Ronde."

Museeuw named Frank Vandenbroucke and Luca Paolini as the team's top riders. "Depending on the circumstances I'll try to help them," he said.

Weather for tomorrow

The weather predictions for Sunday's Amstel Gold Race are for a moderately fine day with temperatures reaching up to 20 degrees. There may be some rain in the morning, but once the sun comes out it will dry things up quickly. The wind will be mainly from the east, gusting up to 20 km/h.

Bookmaker's odds for the Amstel Gold Race

Lance Armstrong (USA - USP)         8/1
Igor Astarloa (SPA - SAE)          14/1
Michele Bartoli (ITA - FAS)       6.5/1
Michael Boogerd (NED - RAB)         5/1
Dave Bruylandts (BEL - MAR)        26/1
Francesco Casagrande (ITA - LAM)   20/1
Mirko Celestino (ITA - SAE)        14/1
Erik Dekker (NED - RAB)            34/1
Danilo Di Luca (ITA - SAE)         14/1
Oscar Freire (ESP - RAB)            7/1
Tyler Hamilton (USA - CSC)         22/1
Roger Hammond (GBR - PAL)          80/1
Serguei Ivanov (RUS - FAS)         18/1
Servais Knaven (NED - QSD)         34/1
Nico Mattan (BEL - COF)            26/1
Johan Museeuw (BEL - QSD)          12/1
Luca Paolini (ITA - QSD)           16/1
Jo Planckaert (BEL - COF)          34/1
Filippo Pozzato (ITA - FAS)        22/1
Davide Rebellin (ITA - GST)        14/1
Raimondas Rumsas (LTU - LAM)       50/1
Scott Sunderland (AUS - FAK)       66/1
Peter Van Petegem (BEL - LOT)       7/1
Frank Vandenbroucke (BEL - QSD)    10/1
Bart Voskamp (NED - BCT)           34/1
Erik Zabel (GER - TEL)             16/1


More Amstel Gold coverage

Preview and history
Final start list
Men's route
Women's route

Ullrich in Flèche Wallonne

Jan Ullrich (Team Coast) will ride in next Wednesday's Ardennes classic, La Flèche Wallonne, according to his team director Rudy Pevenage. Ullrich is currently participating in the Vuelta a Aragon, which finishes on Sunday. His plan is to do the Rund um Köln on Monday, before taking the trip to Belgium for La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday.

"It's going so well with Ullrich that we decided that he would start in La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday as preparation for Liege-Bastogne-Liege," said Pevenage, who indicated that Ullrich would probably stop in the Vuelta a Aragon either on Saturday or Sunday. "On Monday Ullrich will ride for the first time in 19 months in front of his own people. Because he wants to avoid as much stress as possible, he might not ride the Vuelta a Aragon on Saturday."

Ullrich himself is still very satisfied with the way things are going - he was 39th in the first stage of Aragon, which finished on top of a Category 1 climb. "It was tough work and I was really happy when I reached the red kite, that marks the last kilometre," wrote Ullrich on his website, "After that I knew that I could also keep up in the mountains. There were more riders behind me than in front of me. Suddenly all the pain was gone and I enjoyed the last 1000 metres in full flight."

Ullrich added that "It's going OK, but it has to get better if I want to do a good Tour. I am satisfied with my achievement. However I don't forget that there were nearly 40 riders still in front of me. I will work so that number will become smaller."

He also praised Manuel Beltran's efforts in the race. The Spaniard currently sits in third overall behind Leonardo Piepoli and Gilberto Simoni.

Dionne and Wohlberg will compete in GP de Beauce

Despite their trade team Saturn choosing not to start in the GP de Beauce (June 17-22), Canadians Charles Dionne and Eric Wohlberg will race the event as part of a Canadian national team

. "It is unfortunate that the Saturn Team will not be able to participate in the 2003 edition of the event, however, it was especially important to the Saturn Team to see our Canadian athletes compete at this event," team manager Giana Roberge told Cyclingnews. We understand the importance to the race and its sponsors to have Canada well represented through their athletes and our decision was not an easy one to make."

Following the event, both Dionne and Wohlberg will compete at the B World Championships ten days later, again as part of the Canadian national team.

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