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Photo ©: Bettini

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12th Memorial Rik van Steenbergen - 1.2

Belgium, September 10, 2003

2002 Results    Results    Past winners

Eeckhout too strong for Vasseur and Museeuw

By Jeff Jones

Nico Eeckhout (Lotto-Domo) has added his name a second time to the Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen winner's list, after beating Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis) and Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step) in a very hard fought race. Eeckhout and Museeuw had attacked the leading group with 55 km to go, but could not get completely clear, allowing Vasseur to bridge up in the final 500m. Although the Frenchman tried to surprise the other two straight away, Eeckhout was incredibly strong and overpowered him in the sprint.

Eeckhout wasn't too worried when Vasseur caught them with 500m to go. "Then I wasn't afraid of him any more," he said post race. "After such an attack he had also ridden his sprint."

"I always try as much as possible to win," added Eeckhout. "Saturday in Paris-Brussels, where I was so close two years ago. But today I feared the worst in the finale. The breakaway with Johan Museeuw was fantastic. That he in the circumstances could still do it and with such motivation, that I'm in really in awe of. That doesn't mean I would have let him win, if Vasseur hadn't come up to us. I feel for him in these difficult circumstances, but I am a professional and I'm paid by Lotto-Domo to win races, and therefore I would certainly not have given him this win."

As for Museeuw, "I was one of the strongest riders in the race, but not the strongest. Then you can't win, it's as simple as that."

The Lion of Flanders was less than a week ago was taken in for questioning by police over a possible doping affair. The latest news is that he allegedly spoke to veterinarian Jose Landuyts in code during telephone conversations, that were tapped by police. "That I know nothing of," responded Museeuw shortly. "I have raced for six hours and that's enough."

How it unfolded

Rain and wind accompanied the riders as they set off for 199 kilometres of hard riding around Aartselaar, just south of Antwerp, where the great Rik Van Steenbergen died this year aged 78. The race was aggressive from the start, with Nico Eeckhout being involved in a break with teammate Robbie McEwen, Jaan Kirsipuu, Bernhard Eisel, Andy Capelle, Domenic Pasuello and Kevin De Weert.

With 100 km to go, Museeuw launched a counter attack out of the peloton, closing to the front group together with Nick Nuyens, Andrey Kashechkin, Jeremy Hunt, Roy Sentjens, Leif Hoste, Andy Flickinger, Magnus Bäckstedt, Stéphane Berges, and Thor Hushovd. The peloton was some 40 seconds back, driven mainly by Cedric Vasseur and the rest of his Cofidis teammates.

Museeuw attacked on the cobbles with around 65 km to go, being joined by Eeckhout and Eisel. The three leaders couldn't stay clear of the large chasing group, but the race was hard enough that it never really came back together. With 55 km to go there was a group of nine including Museeuw, Eeckhout, Eisel, Hunt, Hoste, and Sentjens, with the Vasseur led peloton closing fast. But just as the leaders were caught, Museeuw attacked yet again, and only Eeckhout could hold him.

A chasing group formed with Andy De Smet (Palmans), Jan Kuyckx (Vlaanderen, Nick Nuyens and Andrey Kashechkin (Quick.Step), Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis), Bert De Waele (Landbouwkrediet), Roy Sentjens (Rabobank), Stefan Van Dijk (Lotto-Domo) and Stefan Adamsson (Team Bianchi), and over the next 50 km they tried in vain to close the 20-30 second gap. The presence of a couple of Quick.Step and Lotto riders in the chase group certainly helped Museeuw and Eeckhout, as they interfered with the chase whenever they could.

Vasseur tried a couple of times to bridge up, but each time he had a Quick.Step rider on his wheel. But with 6 km to go, the two leaders were within a striking distance of 5 seconds, and it was just a matter of who had the legs to go across to them. Vasseur attacked with 2 km to go to bridge up to Museeuw and Eeckhout, who tried to hold off the Frenchman. When he made the junction, Vasseur immediately attacked past the pair, but Eeckhout still had the strength to react and he easily caught and passed the Cofidis rider for the win.

Results - 199 km

1 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) Lotto-Domo                    4.42.00 (42.340 km/h)
2 Cédric Vasseur (Fra) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 0.02
3 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon             0.09
4 Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Lotto-Domo                     0.16
5 Roy Sentjens (Ned) Rabobank
6 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon
7 Andy De Smet (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop
8 Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim
9 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Quick.Step-Davitamon
10 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
11 Stefan Adamsson (Swe) Team Bianchi
12 Bernhard Eisel (Aut)                     9.05
13 Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Team fakta
14 Ludovic Capelle (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
15 Saulius Ruskys (Ltu) Marlux-Wincor Nixdorf
16 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) MBK-Oktos-Saint-Quentin
17 Steven Caethoven (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim
18 Steffen Radochla (Ger) Team Bianchi
19 Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Quick.Step-Davitamon
20 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel) Lotto-Domo
21 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole
22 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel)
23 David Harrigan (Aus) Team Down Under
24 Mark Renshaw (Aus)                       9.18
25 Johan Coenen (Bel) Marlux-Wincor Nixdorf
26 Frank Hoj (Den) Team fakta
27 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon           9.36
28 Luciano André Pagliarini Mendonca (Bra) Lampre
29 Andy Van Houdt (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim
30 Tom Van De Gehuchte (Bel)
31 Andy Cappelle (Bel) Marlux-Wincor Nixdorf
32 Kevin Desmedt (Bel)
33 Fabien De Waele (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop
34 Philippe Gaumont (Fra) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone
35 Nico Mattan (Bel) Cofidis
36 Nicolas Portal (Fra) Ag2r-Prevoyance
37 Bobbie Traksel (Ned) Rabobank
38 Stéphane Bergès (Fra) Ag2r-Prevoyance
39 Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
40 Domenico Passuello (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon
41 Heiko Szonn (Ger)
42 Werner Riebenbauer (Aut) Team fakta
43 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Rabobank
44 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra)
45 Franck Pencole (Fra) MBK-Oktos-Saint-Quentin
46 Steven De Neef (Bel) Marlux-Wincor Nixdorf
47 Jehudi Schoonacker (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim
48 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Lotto-Domo
49 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2r-Prevoyance
50 Tom Steels (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
51 Steven Kleynen (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim
52 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Domo
53 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Lotto-Domo

Past winners

2002 Steffen Radochla (Ger) Team Coast        200 km in 4.25.00
2001 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) Lotto-Adecco
2000 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Française Des Jeux 203 km in 4.24.40
1999 Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 200 km in 4.32.51
1998 Jan Svorada (Cze)
1997 Andrej Tchmil (Ukr)
1996 Jans Koerts (Ned)
1995 Tom Steels (Bel)
1994 Djamolidine Abdujaparov (Uzb)
1993 Mario Cipollini (Ita)
1992 Olaf Ludwig (Ger)

Past winners by Mario Stiehl,