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86th Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) - CDM
Belgium, April 7, 2002
By Jeff Jones
"Flanders' finest" is the nickname given to the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, first held in 1913 and now in its 86th edition. The 264 kilometre classic is the second round of the UCI World Cup, but it has a tradition that extends back far longer than Hein Verbruggen's pet competition. The Ronde is one of the biggest sporting events in Belgium, with hundreds of thousands of fans gathering along the narrow Flemish roads and on the short steep climbs (bergs) to watch their heroes battle it out for the glory.
If you are a Belgian, winning this event will grant you everlasting fame in this country where cycling is a very big part of the culture. If you aren't Belgian, then you'll still get a significant amount of kudos from the fans.
For the record, Belgians Johan Museeuw, Eric Leman and Achiel Buysse together with Italian Fiorenzo Magni have won the Ronde Van Vlaanderen the most number of times: three. Even the greatest rider of all, Eddy Merckx could only manage two wins in the Ronde.
One of the big questions that is being asked in the weeks leading up to the Ronde is "Can Museeuw make it four?" That would be an incredible achievement near the end(?) of his remarkable career, and he certainly has the condition and experience to do it again. His main problem is that he's Museeuw, and will be quite heavily marked whenever he twitches a muscle. Also, his once formidable sprint has lost its edge, and he may struggle to win in a group of more than three riders.
A solo win from Museeuw? That would be something.
Arguably the strongest man on paper at the moment is Peter Van Petegem (Lotto), former winner of the RVV (1999) and winner of this year's Het Volk. PVP has been riding well in all the lead up races: Dwars Door Vlaanderen (4th), Grote Prijs E3-Harelbeke (5th), and Driedaagse van De Panne (1st overall), setting the tempo when it counted. Van Petegem is hoping for a good result on Sunday to help erase the past two years of team problems.
With 2000 winner Andrei Tchmil unfortunately sidelined due to two broken fingers, the third Belgian favourite is probably Jo Planckaert (Cofidis), who again has been riding well in the lead up, but has not yet won a big race. His fourth in Milan-San Remo, third in Dwars door Vlaanderen, and second in the E3-Prijs shows that he certainly has the form, but can he turn that into a win?
Of the non-Belgians, there are a few to take note of, bearing in mind that foreigners have only won this race 24 times out of 85. The most recent of this was last year's win by Italian Gianluca Bortolami, who managed it by the width of a tyre from Erik Dekker. Although Dekker is another top rider who won't be doing the Ronde this year due to injury, Gianluca Bortolami (Tacconi) certainly will and hopes to defend his victory.
The top Italian squads Mapei and Fassa Bortolo will be in the thick of the action. Although Mapei is missing Oscar Freire due to an Achilles injury, they do have a powerful team with Bettini, Zanini, Tafi, Nardello, Bodrogi, De Waele, Steels and Hunter. Bettini is their top man, but Zanini, Steels and De Waele are also in good shape now.
Fassa Bortolo have the experienced Michele Bartoli (1996 winner) and Fabio Baldato (1995-1996 runner up) as their two top men, with excellent support from Ivanov, Konyshev, Loda, Petacchi, Petito, and Zanette, who finished third in the Ronde last year.
Mario Cipollini's zebra-striped Acqua e Sapone team will also be riding hard for their king, who has the job of defending his World Cup leader's jersey. Mario's presence in Flanders may be just for show, as he is yet to race in Belgium this season. But the two-time Gent-Wevelgem winner knows the drill here, and could hold onto his World Cup lead if sufficiently motivated.
Lampre-Daikin will be captained by the always popular Ludo Dierckxsens, the spray painter turned pro bike racer who can be relied upon to get in a breakaway. Whether it's the right one remains to be seen, but Ludo has shown a bit of form this week in De Panne, winning the climber's jersey courtesy of his aggressive riding.
The US Postal Service team is looking extremely good for the classics, with George Hincapie's third placing in De Panne after a strong final TT. He will co-captain the team with Lance Armstrong, who has the condition to ride at the front when it counts, although he too has not raced in Belgium this year.
Of the other teams, Cofidis (except for Planckaert), Team Coast and Rabobank have been hit hard by injuries to their top riders. On form, La Francaise des Jeux may surprise a few people, gaining one of the wild cards awarded last week. And don't forget Telekom, whose top gun Erik Zabel will be trying to make amends for his misfortune in Milan-San Remo. Zabel finished fourth here in 2000, and he is certainly capable of bettering that.
First Second Third 2001 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Erik Dekker (Ned) Denis Zanette (Ita) 2000 Andrei Tchmil (Bel) Dario Pieri (Ita) Romans Vainsteins (Lat) 1999 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel)Johan Museeuw (Bel) 1998 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Stefano Zanini (Ita) Andrei Tchmil (Bel) 1997 Rolf Sörensen (Den) Frédéric Moncassin (Fra) Franco Ballerini (Ita) 1996 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Fabio Baldato (Ita) Johan Museeuw (Bel) 1995 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Fabio Baldato (Ita) Andrei Tchmil (Ukr) 1994 Gianni Bugno (Ita) Johan Museeuw (Bel) Andrei Tchmil (Ukr) 1993 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Franz Maassen (Ned) David Bottaro (Ita) 1992 Jacky Durand (Fra) Thomas Wegmuller (Swi) Edwig Van Hooydonck (Bel) 1991 Edwig Van Hooydonck (Bel) Johan Museeuw (Bel) Rolf Sörensen (Den) 1990 Moreno Argentin (Ita) Rudy Dhaenens (Bel) John Talen (Ned) 1989 Edwig Van Hooydonck (Bel) Herman Frison (Bel) Dag Otto Lauritzen Nor) 1988 Eddy Planckaert (Bel) Phil Anderson (Aust) Adri Van Der Poel (Ned) 1987 Claude Criquielion (Bel) Sean Kelly (Ire) Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) 1986 Adri Van Der Poel (Ned) Sean Kelly (Ire) Flup Vandenbrande (Bel) 1985 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) Phil Anderson (Aust) Hennie Kuiper (Ned) 1984 Johan Lammerts (Ned) Sean Kelly (Ire) Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke (Bel) 1983 Jan Raas (Ned) Ludo Peeters (Bel) Marc Sergeant (Bel) 1982 Rene Martens (Bel) Eddie Planckaert (Bel) Rudy Pevenage (Bel) 1981 Hennie Kuiper (Ned) Frits Pirard (Ned) Jan Raas (Ned) 1980 Michel Pollentier (Bel) Francesco Moser (Ita) Jan Raas (Ned) 1979 Jan Raas (Ned) Marc Demeyer (Bel) Daniel Willems (Bel) 1978 Walter Godefroot (Bel) Michel Pollentier (Bel) Greg Braun (Ger) 1977 Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel) (3) * (3) * 1976 Walter Planckaert (Bel) Francesco Moser (Ita) Marc Demeyer (Bel) 1975 Eddy Merckx (Bel) Frans Verbeeck (Bel) Marc Demeyer (Bel) 1974 Cees Bal (Ned) Frans Verbeeck (Bel) (2)* 1973 Eric Leman (Bel) Freddie Maertens (Bel) Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1972 Eric Leman (Bel) André Dierickx (Bel) Frans Verbeeck (Bel) 1971 Evert Dolman (Ned) F. Kerremans (Bel) Cyril Guimard (Fra) 1970 Eric Leman (Bel) Walter Godefroot (Bel) Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1969 Eddy Merckx (Bel) Felice Gimondi (Ita) Marino Basso (Ita) 1968 Walter Godefroot (Bel) Rudi Altig (Ger) Jan Janssen (Ned) 1967 Dino Zandegu (Ita) Noél Foré (Bel) Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1966 Ward Sels (Bel) Adriano Durante (Ita) Georges Vandenberghe (Bel) 1965 Jo De Roo (Ned) Edward Sels (Bel) Georges Vanconingsloo (Bel) 1964 Rudi Altig (Ger) Benoni Beheyt (Bel) Jo De Roo (Ned) 1963 Noél Foré (Bel) Frans Melckenbeeck (Bel) Tom Simpson (GB) 1962 Rik Van Looy (Bel) Michel Van Aerde (Bel) Norbert Kerckhove (Bel) 1961 Tom Simpson (GB) Nino Defilippis (Ita) Jo De Haan (Ned) 1960 Arthur De Cabooter (Bel) Jean Graczyk (Fra) Ric Van Looy (Bel) 1959 Rik Van Looy (Bel) Frans Schoubben (Bel) Gilbert Desmet (Bel) 1958 Germain Derijcke (Bel) Willy Truye (Bel) Angelo Conterno (Ita) 1957 Fred De Bruyne (Bel) Jos Planckaert (Bel) Norbert Kerckhove (Bel) 1956 Jean Forestier (Fra) Stan Ockers (Bel) Leon Van Daele (Bel) 1955 Louison Bobet (Fra) Hugo Koblet (swi) Rik Van Steenbergen (Bel) 1954 Raymond Impanis (Bel) Francois Mahe (Fra) Alfons Van Den Brande (Bel) 1953 Wim Van Est (Ned) Désiré Keteleer (Bel) Bernard Gauthier (Fra) 1952 Roger Decock (Bel) Loretto Petrucci (Ita) Briek Schotte (Bel) 1951 Fiorenzo Magni (Ita) Bernard Gauthier (Fra) Attilio Redolfi (Fra) 1950 Fiorenzo Magni (Ita) Briek Schotte (Bel) Louis Caput (Fra) 1949 Fiorenzo Magni (Ita) Valére Ollivier (Bel) Briek Schotte (Bel) 1948 Briek Schotte (Bel) Albert Ramon (Bel) Marcel Rijckaert (Bel) 1947 Emiel Faignaert (Bel) René Desmet (Bel) Henri Renders (Bel) 1946 Rik Van Steenbergen (Bel) Louis Thiétard (Fra) Briek Schotte (Bel) 1945 Sylvain Grysolle (Bel) Albert Sercu (Bel) Jos Moerenhout (Bel) 1944 Rik Van Steenbergen (Bel) Briek Schotte (Bel) Jos Moerenhout (Bel) 1943 Achiel Buysse (Bel) Albert Sercu (Bel) K. Beeckman (Bel) 1942 Briek Schotte (Bel) Georges Claes (Bel) Robert Van Eenaeme (Bel) 1941 Achiel Buysse (Bel) Gustaaf Van Overloop (B) O. Vanden Meerschaut (Bel) 1940 Achiel Buysse (Bel) G. Christiaens (Bel) Briek Schotte (Bel) 1939 Karel Kaers (Bel) Romain Maes (Bel) Ward Vissers (Bel) 1938 Edgard De Caluwe (Bel) Sylveer Maes (Bel) Marcel Kint (Bel) 1937 Michel D'Hooghe (Bel) Herman Deltour (Bel) Louis Hardiquest (Bel) 1936 Louis Hardiquest (Bel) Edgard De Caluwe (Bel) Francois Neuville (Bel) 1935 Louis Duerloo (Bel) Eloi Meulenberg (Bel) C. Leemans (Bel) 1934 Gaston Rebry (Bel) Alfons Schepers (Bel) Félicien Vervaecke (Bel) 1933 Alfons Schepers (Bel) Leon Tommies (Bel) Romain Gijssels (Bel) 1932 Romain Gijssels (Bel) Alphonse Deloor (Bel) Alfred Haemerlinck (Bel) 1931 Romain Gijssels (Bel) Cesar Bogaert (Ned) Jean Aerts (Bel) 1930 Frans Bonduel (Bel) Aimé Dossche (Bel) Emile Joly (Bel) 1929 Jef Dervaes (Bel) Georges Ronsse (Bel) Alfred Haemerlinck (Bel) 1928 Jan Mertens (Bel) August Mortelmans (Bel) Louis De Lannoy (Bel) 1927 Gerard Debaets (Bel) G.Van Slembrouck (Bel) M. Dewaele (Bel) 1926 Denis Verschueren (Bel) Gustaaf Van Slembrouck Raymond Decorte (Bel) 1925 Julien Delbecque (Bel) Jef Pé (Bel) Hector Martin (Bel) 1924 Gerard Debaets (Bel) René Vermandel (Bel) Felix Sellier (Bel) 1923 Henri Suter (Swi) Charles De Ruyter (Bel) Albert De Jonghe (Bel) 1922 Leon Devos (Bel) Jean Brunier (Fra) Francis Pelissier (Fra) 1921 Rene Vermandel (Bel) Jules Van Hevel (Bel) Louis Budts (Bel) 1920 Jules Van Hevel (Bel) Albert De Jonghe (Bel) Alfons Van Hecke (Bel) 1919 Henri Van Lerberghe (Bel) Leon Buysse (Bel) Jules Van Hevel (Bel) 1914 Marcel Buysse (Bel) Henri Van Lerberghe (Bel)Pierre Van De Velde (Bel) 1913 Paul Deman (Bel) Jozef Van Daele (Bel) Victor Doms (Bel) (1) Reybrouck (2nd) disqualified (doping) (2) Godefroot (3rd) disqualified (doping) (3) Walter Planckaert (2nd) and Guy Sibille (3rd) disqualified (doping)