News for April 16, 2000

86th Liege-Bastogne-Liege/Luik-Bastanaken-Luik

The favourites are in, and it remains for the race to take its course. If you were a betting person, you'd have odds on Jalabert, Casagrande, Rebellin and Boogerd. If you're prepared to throw a little money around, then you'd pick Museeuw, Tchmil, Van Petegem and Zabel. Then there are the 10 or 15 other riders, including Camenzind, Merckx, Verbrugghe and Farazijn - who all have a good opportunity if the favourites don't get it right. Follow aqll the action here on live from 10.00 CET.

Some numbers

25 teams, 186 riders, 264 kilometres, 10 climbs beginning with Côte Saint-Roch (1.5 km at 7.4%), and ending with the Côte de Saint-Nicolas (1.4 km at 7.5%, with 4.5 km to the finish). A key climb is the Côte de la Redoute (2.4 km at 7.6%) coming at kilometre 229, and often sees the final selection being made. Eddy Merckx won the race five times (1969-1975), and there have been 61 Belgian victories out of a total of 86.

Another non-starter (Paolo Savoldelli has a virus) is ONCE's Miguel Angel Pena, who will be replaced by Inigo Cuesta. Similarly, Banesto's leader Aitor Osa and Lampre's hope, Mariano Piccoli will not sign on.

Hinault: 20 years on

The last French winner of this race was Bernard Hinault back in 1980 in somewhat trying conditions. Snow caused most of the field to abandon on that day, and Hinault was definitely among them. He recalled some of his experiences in an interview with AFP, as the French are hoping once again that they will have a winner in Laurent Jalabert. Come back, all is forgiven.

"I too wanted to give up like everyone on that day," said Hinault. "The circumstances demanded that I go a little further. Guilloux, one of my team members, said 'if it snows at the feed, then I abandon', but it didn't snow until afterwards."

"Guimard (Hinault's team director) said to me before the race 'remove your jacket'. I answered 'but it is cold'. He returned: 'the race begins'. I started the race, and did it alone," recalls Hinault.

Only 21 riders finished that day, and second place (Henny Kuiper) was over nine minutes down, and it remains one of the all time classic editions of any race. "It is a superb race, with beautiful scenery. If you are strong and you don't make an error, you will be in front. Jalabert should have already won it. He missed by the merest fraction," said Hinault.

Hinault still struggles with the cold as a result of that race twenty years ago - when the temperature reaches zero, his fingers become unbearably cold and he has to wear gloves. He has no regrets though, saying that he doesn't need his fingers to work, unlike those in factories. "I had my chance to make sport my career and succeeded. I have nothing to feel sorry for," he concluded.

Rabobank and Farm Frites prepare

Team manager Adri van Houwelingen (Rabobank) has outlined his tactics for tomorrow's 86th Liege-Bastogne-Liege in a team meeting tonight. They are fairly straightforward in theory: In every attack, there has to be at least one Rabobank rider. This concept is necessary because of the way that the races have been panning out in the previous few weeks.

"Even if there are some riders who attack after 10 kilometers, I want one of ours in that group! We don't want to do the dirty work anymore like in the Fleche Wallone/Waalse Pijl. When one Rabo is with the leader's group, the rest can do less work in the peloton. I don't care who is in that group because I believe that all our riders can go to the finish," he said.

Van Houwelingen believes that an outsider can win on Sunday: "When the favourites are passive, there are around 30 riders on the second row. On paper you talk about Francesco Casagrande, Davide Rebellin, Laurent Jalabert, Oscar Camenzind and Michael Boogerd. But I shouldn't be surprised if Maarten den Hartog wins." There you have it.

Farm Frites team manager, Teun van Vliet says that "Ivanov is our man, but I believe Peter van Petegem can finish close. Peter is concentrating on the World Cup, and that's the reason he will start. And I saw him in Tirreno-Adriato - he did the longer climbs with the best riders."

Cycling is quicker in London

According to a recent British Government survey, riding a bike is the fastest way to get around the streets of London compared with any other form of transport. In particular, for journeys between Central and inner London, a bike was more than 50 percent faster than a car, and double the speed of a bus. All you have to do is put up with traffic.

The survey took into account waiting and parking times, and even taxis and trains came out slower: 46 minutes (train) compared to 36 for a bike for a five mile journey. The survey is conducted every three years in an attempt to educate people towards using faster, cleaner forms of transport in one of the world's busiest cities.

However, the relative slowness of public transport was a concern to some who would like to promote alternatives to the car. The solution is simple: ride a bike.

Belgian legend in car accident

87 year-old Belgian cycling legend, Lomme Driessens crashed his car on Friday night at 11.25 pm. He was travelling on the Molenheidebaan in Boortmeerbeek (Belgium) when his car hit a truck. Driessens was seriously wounded and went to the hospital in Mechelen. A spokesman for the hospital said that there was no threat to his life, but he was being kept under close observation.

Driessens will be 88 on May 4 and was a team director of the most famous Belgian cyclists, such as Rik Van Steenbergen, Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx and Freddy Maertens, meaning that he was one of the most successful team directors of all time.

Perry Stone update

Canadian, Perry Stone's attempt to break his own record for riding around Australia is still on target, according to his support team. Despite suffering a temporary loss of a Bianchi when the team car ran over it, the crew managed to get it repaired in Adelaide and he has now got his favourite bike back again.

Reports say that he has increased his daily average to get back on schedule, and aims to ride straight through to Mt Gambier past Adelaide today.