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86th Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) - CDM

Belgium, April 7, 2002

RVV News for April 3

Favourites for the Ronde van Vlaanderen

This Sunday sees the 86th edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Belgium's biggest cycling race. It is now clear who the favourites are, although others can often succeed in this race while the top guns are all marking each other. Here are the comments of the top Belgians as reported by De Standaard newspaper.

Johan Museeuw

Third in the E3 Prijs-Harelbeke, Johan Museeuw is hungry for success in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. On Saturday he said "Here is the old Museeuw. I will go to the Ronde with a good chance at the win."

On Peers/Cofidis/Domo rivalry: "What happened is logical. We are friends, but in racing we are rivals. The problem was that Rodriguez could not anticipate the counter-attack of Planckaert

Patrick Lefevere thinks that Van Petegem, Planckaert and Museeuw are the main favourites for Sunday. "Johan is a bit less explosive than the others. I hope that it is a really tough Ronde, then he will come into his own."

Jo Planckaert

The Cofidis man finished fourth in Milan-San Remo, third in Dwars door Vlaanderen, second in the a win is due for him. It didn't come today in the opening stage of De Panne, but he may get one in the next two stages. "On Saturday I had a unique chance, but Pieri was just a bit stronger. I wasn't frustrated. As a matter of fact I am satisfied. If I sat there, then maybe I would have got 5th. Last year I couldn't follow anyone, and that was more frustrating. I have never ridden better. In two months I have more UCI points as the whole of last season."

"The Ronde van Vlaanderen? Well, that's over six days away. I'm not yet focussed on that. Van Petegem and Museeuw are the favourites. I am still a 'bleutje', never having won a big race."

Peter Van Petegem

Peter Van Petegem is perhaps the strongest at the moment, and therefore will be heavily marked in the Ronde. He finished second today in stage 1 of De Panne, having initiated the final attack on the Berendries. He was also the strongest on the Oude Kwaremont in the GP E3, but didn't make the final podium.

"That's racing. But I wasn't feeling that great. The Paterberg was also good on that day and I was first from the beginning. Afterwards I tried again on the cobbles of Varent, but everyone hung on my wheel, and also on the Vossenhol I got no help. Afterwards Lefevere pointed to Walter Planckaert, but the decision not to be involved was made in consultation. Johan understood my attitude. I was surrounded. I missed a teammate in front of the race.

"Everything is fine with me. Without a scratch coming to the end of De Panne is the next mission."

Andrei Tchmil

"It doesn't depend on the legs but on the conditions of the race. I tried to reach the leading position, but they caught me. Just after that Baguet tried it and he did it. I had to count on other riders to jump. It's a pity I couldn't do something more concrete, because I had really good legs for it. Okay then, this coming Sunday?"

Boogerd blames Sabena

Michael Boogerd has put forward another reason why he won't be riding the Ronde van Vlaanderen this Sunday, due to problems in getting to Spain for the Vuelta a Pais Vasco which starts the next day. In his column in De Telegraaf, Boogerd writes: "I travel to Bilbao on Sunday and that's the reason I'll miss the Ronde van Vlaanderen. It was always possible to fly with Sabena [defunct Belgian airline] to Spain on the Sunday night (after RVV). But after Sabena went bankrupt, that isn't possible anymore. It's a pity, because it was good for me to have a heavy classic of 270 km in the legs before Liege-Bastogne-Liege."

Steels will decide mid-week

Tom Steels is a good chance to start in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, after his ninth place in the first stage of the Driedaagse van De Panne, won by teammate Stefano Zanini. Mapei leader Eric Vanderaerden said before the start of today's stage that "In principle, Tom Steels will ride the Ronde van Vlaanderen. We will see how he goes in the Driedaagse van De Panne. There he can test himself. After the long stage on Wednesday we will know the answer."

Lotto-Adecco team for RVV

Lotto-Adecco has named nine riders to fill eight places in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, with the final decision about who will be left out to be made this Thursday. Andre Tchmil, Peter Van Petegem, Nico Eeckhout, Serge Baguet, Hans De Clercq, Stefan Van Dijk, Glenn D'Hollander, Aart Vierhouten and Thierry Marichal are the nine.

Koppenberg officially opened

By Jeff Jones

One of the most notorious climbs in Flanders, the Koppenberg, was officially opened on Monday, April 1 by the Flemish minister of internal affairs, Paul van Grembergen. Amongst those present included Belgian classics icon Roger de Vlaeminck, who is still fit enough to ride up it (and did so).

The climb will feature in Sunday's Ronde Van Vlaanderen for the first time since 1987, when it was banned after Jesper Skibby fell off and his bike was run over by a race director's car. The 'old' Koppenberg was quite narrow and dangerous, almost impossible for a large group of riders to overcome in the wet due to its rough cobbles.

The organisers of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, in conjunction with the Oudenaarde council, decided to repair the road in order to include it as part of the race in 2002. Work started late last year to completely resurface it with 'smoother' cobbles, as well as widening the road and improving the drainage.

The result is that it will now take its rightful place on the Ronde, and should be an important part of the race. It is the seventh climb (of 16), coming at 58 kilometres to go. It is s just 550 metres long, however its average gradient is 11.6% with a maximum of 22% - the Koppenberg has certainly lost none of its steepness.

Minister Van Grembergen indicated on Monday that after the 2003 Ronde, the cobbles on the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Oudebergstraat will also be refurbished.

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