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66th Fleche Wallonne - 1.HC
Belgium, April 17, 2002
Fleche Wallonne post-race comments
Mario Aerts (Lotto, 1st)
"Axel Merckx attacked on the descent at the same place that I wanted to. Claude Criquiélion [DS and former winner] told me in my earpiece to stay calm. If I had not done this, the result would not have followed. I respected his advice to the letter. When he gave me the green light, I attacked. I then thought I could win."
"I was afraid of Bartoli and Noè, who weren't working in the break. Before the Mur, Merckx and I did the most work. I thought that Bartoli was the strongest but apparently not."
"This is, of course, my biggest victory. I never felt bad in the legs. I can now calmly go to Liege: now I don't have anything to lose. I will try to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Before the start, Rik [Verbrugghe] told me that I was going to win today in La Fleche and he in Liege. This success gives me confidence."
Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo, 3rd)
"I was not the best on the Mur, but it is still a very good result. I used a lot of energy when bridging up to Axel Merckx in the decisive attack."
Axel Merckx (Domo, 6th)
"It was necessary to try something. It was a little bit of poker, I staked everything for everything. I needed about 10 seconds lead at the foot of the Mur."
"If at the start someone had predicted this result, I would have signed straight away. The most important thing was the fact that I rediscovered good legs in the finale."
Claude Criquiélion (Lotto director)
"We have invested in the ear-pieces since the Tour of Flanders and that is what enabled me to inform Mario, via Jose Braeckevelt who was posted in front of the television...The investment has been reimbursed I think."
"I told Mario to calm down. I thought it was David, not Unai [Etxebarria] in front of him. If I had known..."
Rik Verbrugghe was under antibiotics. Mario's victory will remove the pressure from him for Liege-Bastogne-Liege. We don't know if he can exceed himself there."
A quick chat with Tyler Hamilton
By Jeff Jones
CSC-Tiscali's Tyler Hamilton was looking fairly relaxed and cheerful before the start of today's Fleche Wallonne in Charleroi. Cyclingnews caught up with him for an update on his health and the season so far.
CN: How are you feeling today?
TH: I'm feeling a bit better. I've been a little sick this spring with some really bad allergies. I've been living in Spain - the climate's a little bit different there.
CN: Is the form coming along a little more slowly than you hoped?
TH: Yeah it's coming up slowly. I haven't raced that much. I think I've had 14 or 15 days which isn't too many. I did Pays Basque, GP Primavera...it's building up. Every day I feel better and better. It's hard to say I'll be a big factor in a race like today because I haven't raced that much.
For me, I'm scheduled to do the Giro and the Tour, so those have been my big focuses for the year.
CN: How have the classics been for CSC?
TH: We've had a little bit of a slow start to the season. A lot of bad luck with sickness and injuries. But the other day in Paris-Roubaix Tristan Hoffman got fourth, so that's a step in the right direction.
CN: How is the new team?
TH: It's been great. I'm really enjoying it. A great bunch of guys and Bjarne Riis is a great leader of the team. I'm having a lot of fun and that's the most important thing.
David Zabriskie (US Postal) fell foul of the commissaires in La Fleche Wallonne when he "attempted to classify himself without finishing the entire route." In addition to his disqualification, Zabriskie also copped a 200 Swiss franc fine.