News for April 17, 2000

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

Paolo Bettini (Mapei, winner):

Winner, Paolo Bettini
Photo: © Mario Stiehl
The 26 year old winner of this race took the opportunity given to him by his Mapei teammates to be part of the attack after la Redoute with 30 kilometres to go. The rider has often helped compatriot Michele Bartoli to victory, but this this time it was his turn and he grabbed it with both hands. He was a little worried about the other three (Belli, Rebellin and Etxebarria) on the final climb, but held on to be in a good position to contest the sprint.

"It is a great moment. I could not make a bad move, because the team trusted me and I was its hope. I did not doubt my chances after I made the break, and I told Serge Parsani (Mapei Team Director) that I couldn't be beaten."

"Before the Cte de Saint Saint-Nicolas, Parsani said that I had to attack. But Rebellin climbed too fast and I had to be careful to stay on. I nearly overcooked one of the turns near the finish, because last year we went straight ahead, but it was OK."

"In the last two kilometres, I did not work hard, but I knew that Rebellin had done too much in the break. It wasn't easy to take Etxebarria though - before the sprint I was on his wheel but then I came around and surprised him," he said.

He also criticised ONCE's David Etxebarria, who would not work during the race: "I reminded him that we were in the finale of a great classic and that he should work for all our success. He indicated to me that he had instructions from his sporting director who wished to support Laurent Jalabert. I understood."

Bettini came fifth in this race last year, and admitted learning much from Bartoli who had instructed him on how to win. "You need good legs, as well as being able to think clearly. I dedicate this win to Michele, Johan Museeuw [for all his work] and to my family," said Bettini who will marry in October.

Also to his team director: "Since November, my sporting director Serge Parsani spoke to me about this race - this morning in Liege he was still trying to convince me that I could win," said Bettini.

He says that he will still remain a domsetique within Mapei, although he might gain a little more freedom after this. Today, he had Tafi and Museeuw working for him and Merckx - often the situation will be reversed.

Axel Merckx (Mapei, 5th):

"I had good legs today. The most important thing is that the team won. Personally I am very glad to be able to race again at this level considering all the health problems I had last year. I made up some time on the finish, but didn't believe that I could catch the leaders."

Mauro Gianetti (Vini Caldirola, 6th):

"I fell at the foot of La Redoute and I had to waste a lot of strength in order to move forward again. I believe without the fall our team would have been represented in the break. That is really unfortunate, because if three riders come to the finish there is always a good chance for victory."

Laurent Jalabert (ONCE, 10th):

"I don't have any excuses. For David Etxebarria it is a particularly great disappointment though. The others chased while we had one in the lead. I don't understand the tactics of Vini Caldirola. I believe that Casagrande was stronger than I, but they did not want to take the chance. It is nothing too dramatic - I will be there next year."

Erik Zabel (Telekom, 39th):

"I was just looking out for Museeuw and Tchmil today, and I succeeded perfectly. I am lucky to have defended the World Cup jersey."

Udo Blts (Telekom, 79th):

"Our job was to have someone in every breakaway. Therefore I escaped with the 10. Once we were caught, that was it for me."

Johan Museeuw (Mapei, 90th):

"After Paris-Roubaix, my legs were a little tired."

Complete report and results

Museeuw's jersey

After winning the Paris-Roubaix last week, Mapei's Johan Museeuw generously offered to auction the jersey that he wore to victory in order to help a six year-old girl with a rare muscle disease. The auction was held over the internet, but it needn't have been: the buyer was Museeuw's Mapei team co-sponsor, Quick Step. The price: BEF550,000 (US$12,000). Money well spent for a recyclable jersey.

Gottfried Weilenmann amongst UCI celebrations

Courtesy of Theo Muller

The UCI's centenary celebrations saw a number of former legends take part in a ride from Paris to Lausanne. Eddy Merckx, Greg Lemond, Tony Rominger, and Maurizio Fondriest are counted among the stars of the past, but there were also several who had excellent careers as cyclists.

One such was Swiss rider Gottfried Weilenmann, winner of the Tour of Switzerland in 1949, second in the road world championships in 1952 and one of the most important teammates of Hugo Koblet, the winner of the Tour de France in 1951.

Weilenmann was eighty years old last month but is still riding his bike every day and he participated as well in the ride from Paris to Lausanne. The modest former Tour de Suisse winner is of course very sorry for having no longer the necessary force to climb up long hilly roads. But at the same time he he says, there is nothing which is better for our health than regular cycling.

Vogels' increase

Australia's Henk Vogels has this year found a new role in the top US squad Mercury. The former Credit Agricole/Gan rider gave the Belgian classics a miss this year to ride as a valuable domestique for the team in France as well as in the US. His role in the squad is similar to that of the French team, thus wins will be not as common as if he was a designated leader.

However, he and his wife Cindy have enjoyed success of another sort recently, as Cindy gave birth to a 7 lb boy on the weekend. Seven pounds? He's going to need more than that to keep up with dad!