86th Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) - CDM
Belgium, April 7, 2002
Complete Live Report
Start time: 10:00 CET
Estimated finish time: 16:30 CEST
Welcome to Cyclingnews.com's coverage of the 2002 running of Vlaanderen's mooiste, Flanders' finest. The year has a special significance locally, it being 700 years since the Battle of the Golden Spurs in which a Flemish peasant army saw off the knights of France, a defining moment in the Flemish cultural identity. The Ronde is probably Flanders' largest annual event of any sort, so the home riders will be extremely keen to keep up the record of home wins in this event, and the fine weather should bring out some massive crowds. The unseasonal sunshine is tempered by an easterly breeze which is likely to make the going hard in the final stages of the race; one other effect of the fine spring is that the pollen count is several times the norm for the time of year, so any riders who suffer from hay fever will not be having the best of it.
The opening 140 km or so of the course is flat, with a few mild cobbled stretches being all that there is to break up the bunch; the first listed climb, the sharp, narrow and bumpy Molenberg, comes after 151 km; the riders should get there at around 13.30 on the fastest schedule; its potential for mayhem is tempered slightly by the hardest stretch of flat pavé in the race, the Lippenhovestraat and Paddestraat whose four km of cobbles end around 10 km earlier; they are being tackled in the opposite direction to that taken in recent years, slightly downhill.
Before that, the riders will be heading out to the North Sea coast at Wenduine and then south down the dunes to Ostend before doubling back inland, into the wind and towards the climbs in the Vlaamse Ardennen. Expect a few forlorn hope breaks, especially from the minor Flemish teams and the usual suspects, before the action really gets going in the closing 100 km.
192 riders rolled out of the unofficial start in the Grote Markt at Brugge - one man missing: Gerolsteiner's sprinter Saulis Ruskys, a stage winner in the Dreidaagse van De Panne during the week. Huge crowds were out at the start to cheer on their favourites, with the West Flanders riders, Mattan and Museeuw getting the biggest cheers; although there were clearly a lot of nervous riders out there, Jo Planckaert and three of his teammates kept the crowd amused by rolling up on a quadruplet.
10:46 CEST 25 km/238 km to go
After half an hour's brisk wind-assisted racing, the first attacks start, with a group of ten riders including Tom Steels and Fabio Baldato going clear, but not for long. The success of a long breakaway last year may make the stars a little nervous about letting a group get away.
11:09 CEST 37 km/226 km to go
Coming into Johan Museeuw's home town of Gistel a lower profile breakaway has been allowed its head: Gerolsteiner's Ronny Scholz and Alexis Rodriguez fom Kelme have got a minute and a half clear of the peloton, with Jan Kuyckx (Vlaanderen) and Erwin Thijs (Palmans) trying to bridge the gap.
The four riders off the front have come together and have a lead of 3.15. If the race runs to form, then they will probably be allowed to take about ten minutes, but will come back fairly quickly when we get to the hills. Then again, it's not always that easy to predict ...
The first hour of racing was ridden at 42.4 kph, but that was mainly with a tailwind.
The foursome now have more than 12 minutes lead on the peloton.
12:05 CEST 66 km/197 km to go
Through Hertsberge the crowds are six deep enjoying the cloudless skies, but having a fair wait from the front to the back of the race with the front riders having 14.35 on two chasers, Rafael Diaz Justo (ONCE) and Jon Odriozola (Banesto), with Roger Beuchat (Phonak) at 15.50 and the bunch poodling along gently at 16.49.
12:35 CEST 80 km/183 km to go
The roving Cyclingnews reporters at the start found the nervous peloton more than usually tight-lipped about tactics in this most tactical of races. Peter Van Petegem, the number one favourite after his stage and overall wins in the Driedaagse van De Panne, said he was reasonably confident, but not looking forward to the wind (which has risen a little since this morning); Jo Planckaert, other than expressing confidence in the team's new "four riders on one bike" plan, reckoned that the wind would be the same for everybody and not make much difference.
At Tielt, the bunch have fallen back still further to 19 minutes, with the three chasers still closer to them than to the four leaders:
Ronny Scholz (Ger) Gerolsteiner
Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Vlaanderen - T Interim
Erwin Thijs (Bel) Palmans - Collstrop
Alexis Rodriguez (Spa) Kelme - Costa Blanca
A minor pileup in the bunch a few kilometres earlier has had no serious consequences.
12:44 CEST 89 km/174 km to go
Aarsele was chosen as this year's "village of the Ronde", but its pavé is the scene of the first serious crash of the race, where Rabobank's Steven de Jongh falls and is taken to hospital with shoulder injuries.
13:25 CEST 132 km/131 km to go
As the field approaches the hills, the lead of the foursome is finally beginning to stabilise just under 20 minutes (long enough for people to start muttering about Jacky Durand's win in 1992), but as the roads get narrower and the nerves get stretched there are a few falls; Jos Verstrepen, Diego Ferrari and Olaf Pollack all hit the ground but are back up again; meanwhile Jan Verstraeten (Vlaanderen), Raivis Belohvosciks (Lampre) and Gabriele Balducci (Fassa Bortolo) have all retired.
A crash on the first serious pavé section at Lede puts Nico Eeckhout on the ground - wrist looks painful.
13:47 CEST 144 km/119 km to go
At Roborst, past the long Lippenhovestraat/Paddestraat cobbled section, the leaders are slowed briefly by a level crossing, which finally opens just as they are moving up through the stopped traffic; they still have over 19 minutes. Behind the pace has lifted, with brief splits appearing in the bunch after obstacles - the elastic is stretching at the back. Tom Steels has punctured twice and Mario Cipollini once in the last few kilometres. The huge crowds are something of an obstacle even on the wide main roads, with groups of riders splitting off to use the cycle paths in places, with spectators sometimes left with riders passing both sides of them.
13:54 CEST 151 km/112 km to go
The four leaders go over the top of the Molenberg, the first official climb, (the two Belguians looking rather more comfortable on the cobbles) just as the bunch behind them trun onto the long pavé section of the Lippenhovestraat and Paddestraat, with Glenn D'Hollander (Lotto) setting a searing pace. Behind, his team-mate Nico Eeckhout has retired with the injuries frmo his earlier crash.
The difference in speed between the Lotto-driven bunch and the two Spaniards, Odriozola and Diaz Justo, who have been out in no-man's-land between break and bunch since the coast leads to traffic chaos on the narrow roads; the two are mopped up. As the bunch returns to smooth (by Belgian standards) roads, Karsten Kroon (Rabobank) attacks briefly and news comes that Fabio Baldato, an early crash victim, has packed.
A touch of wheels in a fast-moving bunch, now fighting to be at the front up the Molenberg, brings down Konyshev, Nicolas Jalabert, Thierry Marichal and Derganc.
Lotto and Telekom win the race for the awkward corner at the foot of of the Molenberg, and Zabel, Wesemann, Klier and Van Petegem are all but over the topwhile the back of the pack is still all but stationary at the bottom. The leaders are on the Wolvenberg, the second listed climb, where Rodriguez leads them over the top - no cobbles this time.
On the descent from the Molenberg Tristyan Hoffman (CSC) takes a few chances, Erik Zabel holds his wheel and the two fond themselves away. Zabel feels either strong enough or weak enough to consider it worth pursuing, and two have a lead of a couple of hundred metres from the bunch; the leaders have lost six minutes of their margin already.
14:20 CEST 166 km/97 km to go
Zabel and Hoffman's little adventure is chased down on the pave of the Kerkgate (a 3 km flat stretch) by a mass of US Postal jerseys; plenty of damage at the back of the field with a few bunps and grazes as well. The leaders are now through to the 20 km flat, wind-assisted run southwest to the Kluisberg - possibly the last "easy" (in rather relative terms) stretch of the race. Next to have a go from the bunch before the Wolvenberg is the incorrigible Ludo Diercksens.
14:33 CEST 170 km/93 km to go
On the run down through Oudenaarde (where the new Ronde Van Vlaanderen museum is under construction) and beside the Scheldt the lined-out bunch splits a not, with a group of ten or so riders going away as they approach the second feed zone.
One of them is Rabobank's Matt Hayman, who spoke to Cyclingnews before the start: "I'm a bit nervous; it's my first Ronde although I've ridden Paris-Roubaix twice. This is a bit different. I raced in Belgium and Holland for three years as an amateur - I've always wanted to ride this race. I've done all the climbs heaps of times; the only difference is tdoing the distance anmd all of the climbs in one race one after another. I'll be working for Markus Zberg, as well as Marc Wauters who've been up there a few times this season; before Marc's always been riding for someone else but this time he has a chance for hismself. You'd be silly not to put money on Van Petegem though. If you ran the race a hundred times he'd win fifty of them."
14:42 CEST 179 km/84 km to go
The leaders tackle the Kluisberg, and Rodriguez and Kuyckx are in trouble on the climb. From here on the race actually leaves Flanders for a few kilometres and goes into French-speaking Wallonia. Behind them the gap is down to 11.20 and has come back together. The vests of Russian champion Konychev (back from his crash earlier) and the World Cup leader Mario Cipollini (with matching world cup leader's socks and shoes) are visible at the front. Coming into Ruien Karsten Kroon has another go off the front, this time in the company of Rob Hunter.
14:51 CEST 188 km/76 km to go
US Postal en masse, led by Antonio Cruz and Tom Boonen, tow the bunch over the Kluisberg, while ten minutes in front the almost certainly doomed foursome are tackling the Côte de Trieu (or the Knokteberg, as the organisers would prefer it known) - Erwin Thijs, clearly the strongest of the four, rides away from his breakaway companions, but the gap behind is closing inexorably. Kroon and Hunter are mopped up on the descent of the Mont d'Enclus (the francophone side of the Kluisberg).
15:02 CEST 194 km/70 km to go
As the - now about 100 strong - bunch takes a bit of a pause as it rolls up through Orroir and Amougies, Crédit Agricole's Thor Hushovd snaps his saddle bolt ni the bunch and comes off but avoids a potentially unpleasant injury; he's now back in the bunch with an interesting hole in his shorts.
Alone in front Erwin Thijs is tackling the long cobbled drag of the Oude Kwaremont, while behind former winner Jacky Durand is ridden out of the back of the bunch on the Knokteberg.
The run-in to the Oude Kwaremont is another place where there is always a battle to get to the narrow road leading to the climb first; this time it is the pink jerseys of Telekom that mass at the front, but Cipollini, Fred Rodriguez, Hincapie, Museeuw, Sciandri, Bettine are all well placed as the climb starts.
Andreas Klier leads Steffen Wesemann over the top, and out onto the main road there is a group of 25 riders clear, with most of the big names; another group of the same size is around 15 seconds back.
Erwin Thijs is riding strongly in the lead, only seven and a half minutes up now, but the gap is not closing too fast.
Rodriguez leads over the Paterberg; its 20% cobbles don't cause any problems for what we can now call the main group, but further back in the field there is chaos.
15:24 CEST 204 km/60 km to go
Erwin Thijs is the first rider to tackle the newly reintroduced Koppenburg, with his lead down to 6.50. Behind him the Mapei riders have split the main group, leaving a fifty metre gap on the narrow, winding road to the foot of the Koppenburg, where Alexis Rodriguez is the first of the morning's breakaways to be recaptured.
Over the Koppenburg it is Andrea Tafi who leads Museeuw and Bettini over the top five and a half minutes down on Thijs; Steffen Wesemann slides out on the corner at the foot; he remounts quickly but suffers ont he climb; Van Petegem, Hincapie and Armstrong looks strong. Cipollini is still in there, but clearly not in his element. After the worries about the reintroduction of the climb, there are no problems.
On one of the brief sections of main road there is something of a pause, and some of the dropped riders get back up to the group; meanwhile a promising group has got away with Missagle, Sørensen, Tafi, Cassani and Hincapie; Hincapie has a mechanical problem of some kind however and is waving manically for hsi team car. Five minutes up the road, Erwin Thijs is suffering up the Taaienberg.
Cassani punctures out of the front group; there is something of a regrouping behind, with a bunch of around forty riders.
As the danger posed by the Hincapie group becomes obvious, the two home favourites pool their efforts to counter it: Museeuw and Van Petegem set out in pursuit. Italian champion Daniele Nardello joumps across to police them (with Tafi ahead, he can hope for a free ride). Cassani has rejoined the Hincapie group, who have caught early escaper Kuyckx who is still hanging on.
15:50 CEST 221 km/43 km to go
Museeuw, Van Petegem and Nardello join Hincapie, Tafi, Missaglia, Sørensen, Kuyckx and Cassani at the foot of the Eikenberg; now there is only Thijs just 4.15 ahead. As Kuyckx sits up, Michele Bartoli tries to bridge the gap.
15:57 CEST 224 km/40 km to go
Over the relatively innocuous-looking Kapelleberg Cassani and Missaglia temporarily lose contact, and Bartoli gives up his chase. Behind them there is a relatively large bunch, but the Mapei riders, Bodrogi and Bettini in particular, are trying to block any attempts to get clear. From here on we are into the final run-in, with the Leberg, Berendries and Tenbosse in rapid succession, the draggy road to Geraardsbergen, the Muur and the Bosberg. Cassani probably won't last past the Leberg; Thijs' lead is down to 3.10.
16:12 CEST 228 km/36 km to go
On the Leberg Tafi, Van Petegem and Museeuw stretch their legs a little, and make a few dummy attacks. Over the top and on the descent to the Berendries a group of eight including Bartoli or so gets away from the main bunch, although it is well policed, inter alia by Armstrong.
On the Berendries Thijs' lead falls below two minutes. Despite my predictions, Cassani has got a second wind and rides it fairly comfortably; there are no serious attacks. Hincapie is climbing fairly consistently towards the back of the group, but looks very comfortable. Sørensen is getting so much to drink from the neutral service motorbike that you'd think he'd heard they were putting the prices up.
16:22 CEST 236 km/28 km to go
Erwin Thijs has just over a minute's lead through the streets of Brakel - Van Petegem's home town - and it looks as though the Tenbossestraat will be the last climb he leads over.
Van Petegem leads the chasers up through ecstatic crowds; this is where Museeuw attacked before one of his wins, but not this time. The second group, with Armstrong, Hoj, Zanini, Zberg is only half a minute or so behind as they set out on the concrete slab road to Geraardsbergen.
Andrea Tafi attacks unsuccessully on the "Parikeberg", an unlisted but surprisingly tricky little rise in the Geraardsberen road, and again on the descent. Thijs is still ahead but the cars have been pulled out of the gap; the Armstrong grgoup is at 50 seconds.
16:31 CEST 247 km/17 km to go
Erwin Thijs' epic comes to an end as they come down in to Geraardsbergen. He has been in the lead for something like 210 km. Andrea Tafi claps him on the shoulders as they catch him; he stays with them but here comes the Muur ...
16:37 CEST 249 km/15 km to go
Museeuw is the first to attack on the Muur - the first pave, before they turn onto the Muur proper, and Van Petegem, Hincapie and Nardello go with him. Tafi comes across and attempts a counter on the steepest and roughest section, but Van Petegem comes cofortably round the outside; Hincapie looks confortable too, while Tafi and NArdello hang on.
Behind the five leaders, Cassani, Missaglia and Sørensen follow at 25 seconds. The Armstrong/Zanini group has been caught by a large bunch led by the Telekom team.
Tafi has yet another go on the descent, to no avail. The leaders are now approaching the Bosberg. Hincapie is sitting quite comfortably on the others; odd things happen in sprints after 260 km, but he looks a pretty good bet from here.
16:45 CEST 254 km/10 km to go
Museeuw launches an attack on the Bosberg, but Van Petegem leads the counter-move but declines to come past, and we are into the final run-in to Meerbeke with the same group of five. Tafi attacks. Again. And is caught, again.
16:52 CEST 259 km/5 km to go
Tafi attacks again - clearly softening up the others for Nardello - and then in the streets of Nieuwenhove Van Petegem attacks strongly - and promptly runs into a scrum of press motorbikes slowed up over the traffic-calming measures. Nardello chases him down, and VanPetegem declines to continue with two and the five come back together.
16:54 CEST 262 km /2 km to go
The quintet fence, watching one another. Tafi attacks again at 4 km to go and there is a bit of a pause while the others decide who is going to chase. Museeuw and Hincapie are chasing at half-effort, Van Petegem tried to jump but was caught back, and all of a sudden Tafi is looking quite good with only 2 km to go.
Last km and Tafi is still away. Nardello is in the proverbial armchair if the others chase, and none of the other three is going to work for the others - Tafi will win.
result - full result
Andrea Tafi wins, twenty seconds clear - not the strongest rider of the leading group, but certainly the most hard-working, a beneficiary of good teamwork and the rivalry between the others. Nardello leads out the sprint for second but it is Museeuw who brings the rest in, gesturing in a somewhat irritated fashion, but that's teamwork ...
Cassani, Sørensen and Missaglia stay clear to pick up 6th to 8th, and Mario Cipollini leads in the bunch ahead of Eric Zabel to round out the top ten and maintain his lead in the World Cup.
1. Andrea Tafi (Ita) Mapei - Quick Step 264 km in 6:58:53 (43.29 kph)
2. Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo - Farm Frites at 0.10
3. Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto - Adecco
4. George Hincapie (USA) US Postal Service
5. Daniele Nardello (Ita) Mapei - Quick Step
6. Rolf Sørensen (Den) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago 1.12
7. Enrico Cassani (Ita) Domo - Farm Frites
8. Gabriele Missaglia (Ita) Lampre - Daikin 1.14
9. Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Cantina Tollo 2.37
10. Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom
11. Jo Planckaert (Bel) Cofidis, le credit par téléphone
12. Robert Hunter (SAf) Mapei - Quick Step
13. Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team Coast
14. Andrej Hauptman (Slo) Tacconi Sport
15. Stefano Zanini (Ita) Mapei - Quick Step
World Cup standings (provisional)
1. Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Cantina Tollo 120
2. Andrea Tafi (Ita) Mapei - Quick Step 100
3. Fred Rodriguez (USA) Domo - Farm Frites 79
4. Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo - Farm Frites 70