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

Belgium, April 7, 2002

Results    World Cup standings    Live report

Tuscans rule in Flanders

Tafi Powers To Win While Cipollini Keeps World Cup

By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Click for larger image
Andrea Tafi
Photo © AFP

It's sometimes said that life begins at 30, and for Andrea Tafi (Mapei-Quick Step), the gregarious Tuscan from Fucecchio, his win today in the 86th edition of the Tour of Flanders was his 30th career victory and his fifth World Cup win ever. Today, Tafi was reborn again as a top rider as he powered in alone up the Halsesteenweg in Meerbeke for a huge win. After some wrote him off after a lost 2001 season beset by injury and only one win, Tafi is back big-time.

Andrea Tafi focused on a big spring classics push this season year, starting the year early with races in Australia and Malaysia. "I never thought I could win today," the emotional Tafi said in a post race interview. "Now I'm really happy to win Flanders and I have to thank our team who rode great and especially Daniele Nardello. Today I was up against a really good Museeuw and Van Petegem - now I'll try to keep it going for Paris-Roubaix."

Click for larger image
The podium
Photo © AFP

Tafi must now be considered a real favourite for Roubaix; besides his 1999 win, he has also been 2nd ('98) and 3rd ('96) before. But pre-race favourites Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Addeco) and Johan Museeuw (Domo-Farm Frites), third and second respectively today were both looking PO'ed on the podium in Meerbeke today about Tafi's win; both undoubtedly thinking of the lack of key team-mates like Tchmil and Vainsteins who might have helped them quash Tafi. Undoubtedly both Museeuw and Van Petegem will have something to say about Tafi's quest for a repeat win next weekend in Paris-Roubaix.

Nonetheless, one month from his 36th birthday, Tafi is still riding stronger than ever, as is his neighbour in Tuscany, Mario Cipollini. At 35, Cipo is another old Tuscan bike racer who has gained new life; after his tremendous Milano-San Remo win a few weeks ago, Cipo had a great ride today for his best-ever ToF finish, powering in ahead of Erik Zabel to win the group sprint for 9th place and maintain his lead in the 2002 World Cup.

It was a bright, windy spring day for today's ToF, but the easterly wind didn't made things too difficult for the Tour of Flanders peloton, and the sun and spring-like conditions brought out huge crowds all along the parcours, looking for a good race after last year's anticlimactic edition. As the race rolled through Gistel (Johan Museeuw's home town) after an hour or so of racing, a four man break got away and eventually got a big lead, with 32 year old Erwin Thijs (Palmans-Collstrop) lasting the longest up front, becoming Flanders' working-class hero of the day.

Thijs, a decidedly Larry Lunchbox type of rider from Tongeren is known as good climber [he finished second in last Sunday's Brabantse Pijl] and buoyed by the support of the enthusiastic beer and frites fuelled crowds, Thijs eventually stayed away for 209km. But his dream ended outside of Geraardsbergen as he was caught and soon dropped by the front group.

Click for larger image
Winning break
Photo © AFP

This year's ToF really gelled with 55 km to race, after Mapei's Paolo Bettini made hard tempo up the Koppenberg, the 7th of 16 climbs in the race. Once over the top, eventual winner Andrea Tafi made one of his innumerable attacks du jour and provoked a selection with Enrico Cassani (Domo-FF) covering for team leader Johan Museeuw and USPS rider George Hincapie, who had great legs all day.

By the next climb, the Taaienberg, the eventual winning break had formed, with three-time ToF winner Museeuw, '99 winner Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Addeco), Gabriele Missaglia (Lampre-Daikin), crafty 37 year old Dane and '97 ToF winner Rolf Sørensen (Colnago-Landbouwkrediet) and Italian champion Daniele Nardello (Mapei-Quick Step) all up the road for good with 50km to race.

Tafi was like the battery bunny; the Mapei man attacked again and again while either Van Petegem, Museeuw or Hincapie would pull him back. Behind the lead 'kopgroep', Rabobank's Belgian battler Marc Wauters, Coast's finger lickin' good Dane Frank Høj and Nico Mattan (Cofidis) tried to close down the 20" gap, but Mapei's Zanini and Bodrogi, Domo-FF's US champ Fred Rodriguez and Lance Armstrong were there to close down any chase.

With 5 climbs and 35 km to race, Erwin Thijs was 2'30" ahead of the first chase group, with the second group containing Zanini, Rodriguez & Armstrong just 20" back. Tafi continued to power away at the front, and with three climbs to go on the Tenbosse and Thijs struggling just 1' up the road, Tafi upped the ante with 25km to race with another massive attack. Van Petegem and Cassani reeled him in, but the effort clearly took its toll on the Domo-FF man.

Thijs was caught on the run-in to Geraardsbergen with 18km to go after a noble 200km+ break and as he drifted to the back of the group, Tafi saluted Thijs with a little tap.

Click for larger image
Museeuw on the Muur
Photo © AFP

At the base of the penultimate climb, the tough cobbled ascent of the Muur of Geraardsbergen, Cassani rode hard tempo to set up the inevitable attack from his team-mate Johan Museeuw. Passing through screaming crowds in the central square of town, Museeuw made his move as soon as the cobbles began.

Johan shattered the group, provoking a counter move by Tafi and then Van Petegem, who led over the top from smooth riding Hincapie and the slightly gapped Museeuw, with Nardello and Tafi bringing up the rear. Once over the top of the terrible Muur, the front group came back together and with 15km to the finish, and then there were five...

Cassani had sacrificed himself for Museeuw and he and the surprising Missaglia were quickly adrift, while up front, Nardello and Tafi gave Mapei the numbers advantage.

Only one climb to go, the long drag up the Bosberg where Museeuw tried an attack, but helpful Nardello countered the frustrated Domo man. Museeuw had good legs, but not great legs and just couldn't make a difference when it counted today. Then it was the fast 12km run-in to Meerbeke and time for looky-loo.

Museeuw, Van Petegem and Hincapie knew that if they made a move, helpful Nardello would pull them back and set up a classic counter move for Tafi. Van Petegem almost got away for good with 8km when he broached a wave of camera motos up ahead, then grabbed a huge gap off their draft as they accelerated, but once again, Museeuw and Hincapie pulled back the seemingly reluctant Van Petegem.

Click for larger image
Tafi wins it!
Photo © AFP

Things were looking good for a Mapei win now as Meerbeke loomed. Tafi saw two of his supporters on the right side of the road with a "Tafi" banner and took heart; he was the strongest in the break, so he dropped back to the tail of the group and put on his furbo-turbo, waiting for just the right moment to launch his last salvos. With 5km to race, Van Petegem was nervous; he kept looking back at Tafi but in a moment's inattention, Tafi launched yet again at the 4km mark, Van Petegem let him go and Museeuw and Hincapie just couldn't close the gap alone.

The Tuscan got 50 meters gap - just 5 seconds lead - and there he stayed...but looky-loo-itis struck again. No one wanted to sacrifice their chances pulling back Tafi, who was just gaining momentum as the finish line got closer.

As the three chasers and Nardello made the sweeping right onto Halsesteenweg with 1.5km to race, they all realized that Andrea Tafi, pounding his 53x11, had made his finally attack of the day stick, and would thus win the 86th Tour of Flanders. The large, and very partisan Belgian crowd realised this too, and watched in stunned silence as Tafi rode the last 500 metres to victory.

Museeuw beat Van Petegem for second spot, while an excellent George Hincapie finished 4th. George was in the race all day, and his support from team-mate Armstrong and the entire USPS squad was solid, but with major classics players like Tafi & Co. just ahead of him, Hincapie can be satisfied with a good day at the office and hope to move up a notch next week at Paris-Roubaix.

Photo's by AFP


1 Andrea Tafi (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step                 6.53.00 (38.354 km/h)
2 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites                  0.21
3 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Adecco
4 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal Service
5 Daniele Nardello (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step
6 Rolf Sörensen (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 e Sapone                  2.37
10 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom
11 Jo Planckaert (Bel) Cofidis
12 Robert Hunter (RSA) Mapei-Quick Step
13 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team Coast
14 Andrej Hauptman (Slo) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi
15 Stefano Zanini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step
16 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step
17 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Domo-Farm Frites
18 Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel) Lampre-Daikin
19 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner
20 Matthew Wilson (Aus) La Francaise des Jeux
21 Nicolas Jalabert (Fra) CSC-Tiscali
22 Servais Knaven (Ned) Domo-Farm Frites
23 Nico Mattan (Bel) Cofidis
24 Tom Boonen (Bel) US Postal Service
25 Markus Zberg (Swi) Rabobank
26 Matthias Buxhofer (Aut) Phonak Hearing Systems
27 Tristan Hoffman (Ned) CSC-Tiscali
28 Marco Serpellini (Ita) Lampre-Daikin
29 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport
30 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Phonak Hearing Systems
31 Emmanuel Magnien (Fra) Bonjour 
32 Frank Hoj (Den) Team Coast
33 Hans De Clercq (Bel) Lotto-Adecco
34 Raphael Schweda (Ger) Team Coast
35 Paul Van Hyfte (Bel) CSC-Tiscali
36 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop
37 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi
38 Zbigniew Spruch (Pol) Lampre-Daikin
39 Serge Baguet (Bel) Lotto-Adecco
40 Peter Farazijn (Bel) Cofidis
41 Dmitri Konyshev (Rus) Fassa Bortolo
42 Denis Zanette (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
43 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa)
44 Christophe Mengin (Fra) La Francaise des Jeux
45 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Mapei-Quick Step
46 Filip Meirhaeghe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
47 Constantino Gutierrez Zaballa (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca
48 Nicolay Bo Larsen (Den) Gerolsteiner
49 Jan Boven (Ned) Rabobank
50 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) La Francaise des Jeux
51 Maximilian Sciandri (GBr) Lampre-Daikin
52 Rolf Huser (Swi) Team Coast
53 Dave Bruylandts (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites
54 Erwin Thijs (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop
55 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
56 Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) Acqua e Sapone
57 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank
58 Mario Scirea (Ita) Acqua e Sapone
59 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service            2.59
60 Massimo Giunti (Ita) Acqua e Sapone
61 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Team Telekom                    2.59
62 Andreas Klier (Ger) Team Telekom
63 Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim              4.48
64 Marco Milesi (Ita) Domo-Farm Frites                5.01
65 Stephan Schreck (Ger) Team Telekom                 5.22
66 Rolf Aldag (Ger) Team Telekom
67 Stefan Adamsson (Swe) Team Coast                   9.14
68 Matthé Pronk (Ned) Rabobank                       10.13
69 Hendrik Van Dyck (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop          15.25
70 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank
71 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites
72 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop
73 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole
74 Jacky Durand (Fra) La Francaise des Jeux
75 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems
76 Bekim Christensen (Den) Team Coast                12.25
77 Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa)
78 Steffen Weigold (Ger) Gerolsteiner
79 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
80 Fabian De Waele (Bel) Mapei-Quick Step
81 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
82 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Rabobank
83 Sébastien Joly (Fra) Bonjour
84 Guido Trenti (USA) Acqua e Sapone
85 Gabriele Colombo (Ita) Acqua e Sapone
86 Christopher Jenner (Fra) Credit Agricole
87 Christian Vandevelde (USA) US Postal Service
88 Pavel Padrnos (Cze) US Postal Service
89 Matthew White (Aus) US Postal Service
90 Jan Hruska (Cze) ONCE-Eroski
91 Franck Perque (Fra) La Francaise des Jeux
92 François Simon (Fra) Bonjour
93 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bonjour
94 Glenn D'Hollander (Bel) Lotto-Adecco
95 Kai Hundertmarck (Ger) Team Telekom
96 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Fassa Bortolo
97 Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Lotto-Adecco                16.42
98 Diego Ferrari (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi
99 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Lotto-Adecco
100 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) Domo-Farm Frites
101 Julian Usano Martinez (Spa) Kelme
102 David Derepas (Fra) Phonak Hearing Systems
103 Tom Steels (Bel) Mapei-Quick Step
104 Claude Lamour (Fra) Cofidis
105 Geoffrey Demeyere (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim
106 Torsten Nitsche (Ger) Saeco-Longoni Sport
107 Jimmi Madsen (Den) CSC-Tiscali

Starters: 192
Classified: 107

World Cup standings after round 2

1 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua e Sapone                 120 pts
2 Andrea Tafi (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step                   100
3 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Domo-Farm Frites                 79
4 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites                  70
5 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Adecco                  61
6 Jo Planckaert (Bel) Cofidis                           55
7 Markus Zberg (Swi) Rabobank                           51
8 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal Service               50
9 Daniele Nardello (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step               36
10 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Mapei-Quick Step            36
11 Rolf Sörensen (Den) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago          32
12 Tomas Konecny (Cze) Domo-Farm Frites                 32
13 Enrico Cassani (Ita) Domo-Farm Frites                30
14 Andrei Tchmil (Bel) Lotto-Adecco                     28
15 Andrej Hauptman (Slo) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi           25
16 Gabriele Missaglia (Ita) Lampre-Daikin               24
17 Jan Svorada (Cze) Lampre-Daikin                      24
18 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi             20
19 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom                        16
20 Mario Manzoni (Ita) Index-Alexia                     16
21 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Mobilvetta Design-Formagg      15
22 Robert Hunter (RSA) Mapei-Quick Step                 14
23 Paolo Lanfranchi (Ita) Index-Alexia                  14
24 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team Coast                     13
25 Mauro Zinetti (Ita) Index-Alexia                     12

Teams classification

1 Domo                                                  21 pts
2 Mapei                                                 12
3 Lampre                                                12
4 Lotto                                                 11
5 Alexia                                                 9
6 Tacconi                                                8
7 Cofidis                                                7
8 Rabobank                                               7
9 Acqua e Sapone                                         7
10 Team Coast                                            5

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