Stars that Fade - to enter the Black Hole

Classics Stars Retire

Edwig Van Hooydonck, winner of the 1989 and 1991 Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Gilles Delion, winner of the 1990 Giro di Lombardia, have announced their retirement from pro racing this week. Both riders are 29 years old.

Van Hooydonck announced his retirement on Tuesday (April 30) with immediate effect. "I'm stopping," he said, "because I don't have the strength to finish my career as a domestique." He had already sounded despondent on the evening after this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen. "I put a lot into getting ready for this race -- my race," he said then. "I prepared for it to the best of my ability but I wasn't capable of convincingly getting involved in the struggle for victory. I've concluded that I'm no longer in with a chance. Such races are now at too high a level for me."

Van Hooydonck felt no happier about Paris-Roubaix a week later, and looked unenthusiastic when I saw him at the start of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, where he had been drafted in as a last-minute replacement.

Van Hooydonck turned pro with Kwantum in 1986, when still not 20 and then rode with successive manifestations of Jan Raas's team: Superconfex (1987-89), Buckler (1990-92), WordPerfect (1993-94), Novell (1995) and Rabobank (1996)

Apart from his two Flanders victories, both sealed with spectacular accelerations on the Bosberg climb on the run into the finish -- hence his nickname Eddy Bosberg -- the six foot three and a half inch redhead also had a number of high placings in Paris--Roubaix (3rd in 1989 and 1990, 5th in 1987, 6th in 1993). His other victories include the Fleche Brabanconne (1991, 1993, 1995), the GP de Denain (twice), the Ruta del Sol, the GP Eddy Merckx, stage wins in the Nissan Classic and Tour of Spain in 1992, stage wins in the Tour of Romandie and Tour of Luxembourg 1993, and A Travers la Belgique.

Gilles Delion

Gilles Delion called his Aki-Gipiemme directeur-sportif yesterday (May 2) to tell him of his decision to retire. "My life has always been the bike," he later told L'Equipe. "I can't ride any longer, and that depresses me." The career of the six foot one and a half inch blond from Chambery reached its peak in 1990 when he outsprinted team- mate Pascal Richard to win the Giro di Lombardia, having finished 15th in his first Tour de France earlier in the year, taking the white jersey. Things fell into disarray the next season. "My problems began at the begining of the 1991 season when I was hit by mononucleosis," he said. "It forced a break and I could never get things together again. I had a few hits here and there (a win after a lone break in the Classique des Alpes in 1992; the Brussels--Valkenberg stage of the 1992 Tour de France and the GP de Rennes in 1994) but it's been five years since I've been able to make regular efforts. Today, I've no longer the strength to attempt them. I haven't raced since the Criterium International a month ago.

I haven't ridden at all for a week and for a fortnight before that was only able to manage an hour and a half a day without suffering major fatigue. The decison to retire hasn't been difficult to make, since I didn't have any choice; it's the reality which is difficult to accept." In February Delion had seen a glimmer of hope when he got into the lead group in the Tour du Haut-Var and felt good on the climbs. "It was the first and last time this year. In Paris--Nice I was already at the bottom of a hole."

Delion gave up his university studies to turn pro aged 22 in August 1988 for Paul Koechli's Swiss Weinmann team (later Helvetia). He was later a member of the Castorama (1993--94) and Chazal (1995) teams before making a late signing for Aki at the beginning of the 1996 season. Apart from his Lombardy, Tour stage and Classique des Alpes wins, Delion had a stage win the 1990 Criterium International, two stage wins in the Mi-Aout Bretonne 1993, won the GP d'Ouverture 1994 and was 2nd in Lombardy in 1989 and 3rd in Milan--San Remo in 1990.