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90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003

Servais Knaven: Today I'll ride to win

By Gabriella Ekström in Bordeaux

Knaven on the attack
Photo: © AFP

Before Stage 17 this morning in Dax, Servais Knaven told Cyclingnews that he'd ride to win today. After just one kilometre, a break went and Servais Knaven showed that he was true to his word by sitting in it. "The other teams chased us very hard at first, and we remained at twenty or thirty seconds for a long time," Servais said after the stage. "We worked hard to make the break grow to a minute, and after that it kept growing. I thought la Francaise des Jeux would chase, but they had Christophe Mengin in the break as well, and there are not so many pure sprinter teams in the Tour that could chase either."

Already before the Tour, Patrick Lefevre told Servais Knaven that the stage to Bordeaux was made for him, and Lefevre told Cyclingnews after the stage that he and Servais had reached an agreement this morning. "Servais asked me 'If I win today, can I stay at home in the future?' I told him; Sure you can! However, I know that he has been looking for this stage win for several years, and I think that now once he's won it, he'll change his mind."

Servais wasn't slow to admit that his opinion had changed a little during the day. "Yea, that used to be my opinion, but now I'll have to come around and say that it would be nice to come back and maybe win another stage win in the future. I have extended my contract with Quick.Step Davitamon, but I don't know if I'll be part of their future Tour teams, because there's many talented young riders on the team."

With quick finishers like Commesso, Van Bon and Bossoni in the breakaway, Servais had to come up with a plan, and it was not for the light hearted. "Today's stage was how I like them to be, flat with an early break. Towards the end the breakaway group went silent, and we all started to think about how we would ride at the end. Needless to say, I didn't want to sprint for it, and I didn't want to risk that someone else attacked before me either, and therefore I jumped with 18 kilometres to go. Maybe it seemed a little bit too early, and I admit that it was a risky move, but I felt really good. I was able to ride at 50 kph and the others just couldn't do that."

Advice from Wilfried Peeters
Photo: © AFP

After his Paris-Roubaix win in 2001, Servais Knaven became known as a big rider who still wouldn't shy away from working for his team. "After Paris-Roubaix, a lot of people expected me to win many more races, but I'm no Erik Dekker who can win three stages in the Tour. I'm not the kind of rider who can win a lot, but it happens!"

Although his win today is one of the highlights of his career, it doesn't stand out in comparison to his Paris-Roubaix win. "To me, Paris-Roubaix is the most beautiful race that can be ridden and won. Perhaps the World Championships are equally beautiful. There's a big difference though in how this stage was ridden if you compare it to Paris-Roubaix. That was a very hard race to win, and I needed a lot of help from my team. I couldn't have won it without them. Today, my win came easier, but I did it on my own!"

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