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87th Ronde van Vlaanderen/Tour des Flandres - CDM
Belgium, April 6, 2003
By Jeff Jones
In the last two years, two Italians have denied the Belgians glory in their greatest event of the season, the Ronde Van Vlaanderen. In 2001, Gianluca Bortolami narrowly outsprinted Erik Dekker for the victory, while last year Andrea Tafi attacked with 4 km to go to win the flowers, also preventing Johan Museeuw from taking a record fourth victory in the race.
This year in principle, Johan Museeuw is back for revenge, with his new team Quick.Step-Davitamon, which has - so far - dominated the big one day classics. Museeuw's masterly performance in Het Volk and Paolo Bettini's win in Milan-San Remo have been the two highlights for Patrick Lefevere's top classics squad, however in the last few weeks things haven't gone so well. Perhaps the boys in blue and white haven't been taking their vitamins, because most of them at the moment are suffering from illness, either respiratory or stomach related: Johan Museeuw (also recovering from an injured knee in Dwars Door Vlaanderen), Paolo Bettini, Tom Boonen, Frank Vandenbroucke and Servais Knaven are all on the sick list, and maybe Lefevere will have to call on the talents of Luca Paolini to fly the flag on Sunday.
The coming days will be vital, as a fully fit Quick.Step mob could tear the field apart in the Ronde, as they showed in Het Volk. For many, Museeuw remains the favourite, although his setbacks might prove to be a little too much for him to overcome on Sunday. Bettini is the World Cup leader, and almost won Tirreno-Adriatico while being sick. Vandenbroucke is motivated, and his supporters have painted the Berendries with "VDB: God is terug" signs all the way up. Sunday will show exactly how far VDB has come back, but perhaps he is not at godlike level just yet. Boonen is young, but he's strong, and definitely a potential winner of this race.
There are sufficient rivals though, as Dutch team Rabobank showed last weekend by winning all three of the Belgian races carrying UCI points: The E3 Prijs (Steven De Jongh), Brabantse Pijl (Michael Boogerd) and the 1.5 classed Zesbergenprijs Harelbeke (Niels Scheuneman, from the TTIII). Boogerd is certainly a man in form, even though he has never ridden the Ronde before. Also his partner in crime last Sunday Oscar Freire has the legs to win, should he get in the right break - there are few riders faster than Freire in a sprint.
Telekom showed its strength in the E3 Prijs, with Steffen Wesemann finishing second behind De Jongh in the break, and Andreas Klier and Matthias Kessler being involved in key moves. Wesemann looks to be at top form for the classics, so he should be a player in the Ronde.
Caldirola-Sidermec boasts 2001 winner Gianluca Bortolami, who also won the first stage of the Driedaagse van De Panne. Bortolami and his teammate Romans Vainsteins expect to perform well in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Bortolami in particular is one of the top favourites for the win.
Alessio's Fabio Baldato is no stranger to Belgium, having twice placed second in the RVV in 1995 and 1996. He won stage 2 of the Driedaagse van De Panne, and looks to be in better shape this year than ever. He's a good sprinter and can get over the cobbled climbs, so is definitely one to watch.
Lotto-Domo hasn't had an ideal start to the season, with the wins just not coming as they did last year. Both Robbie McEwen and Peter Van Petegem have done their best, but it hasn't been enough to please their team managers or even more so, the voracious Belgian media. Van Petegem is their man for Sunday, but he's struggled with his form recently and doesn't appear to be at his best at the moment. He finished third last year and won the Ronde in '99, so he does at least have the experience, and that counts for a race like this.
Looking further down the list, we have Saeco's Dario Pieri, who's a man for the classics and has a strong team behind him. Pieri can sprint and can motor over the cobbles, so if he's there at the end in a small group then he's an excellent chance.
Speaking of sprinters, World Champion Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze) will be on the start line in Ninove, displaying the rainbow stripes once again. He turned a few heads last year by winning the bunch sprint for 9th, showing that he could indeed get his huge frame over the bergs of Flanders. If the Ronde comes down to an almost unheard of bunch sprint, then Cipo will be the man to watch.
Among the other favourites it's hard to rule out Nico Mattan and Jo Planckaert (Cofidis), who if things really go their way could pull of surprise victories. Both are very aggressive riders, which is important in a race like this, but both are also fairly well marked by the peloton. Mattan must have one of the biggest fan clubs along the parcours, and that surely counts for something.
Last but not least is Dutchman Max van Heeswijk (US Postal-Berry Floor), who was the only rider to stick with Museeuw and co. during Omloop Het Volk, eventually finishing second. Unfortunately for Van Heeswijk, he is also suffering from the dreaded 'griep', and has not had an ideal leadup to the race.
Cyclingnews readers can follow the 87th Ronde van Vlaanderen live from start to finish on Sunday, April 6. Tune in at 10:00am CEST (Europe)/3:00am EST (America East Coast)/0:00am PST (America West Coast)/18:00 AEST (Australia East Coast).
First Second Third 2002 Andrea Tafi (Ita) Johan Museeuw (Bel) Peter Van Petegem (Bel) 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) Freddy Maertens (2nd) and Walter Planckaert (3rd) disqualified (doping)