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2002 Het Volk

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58th Omloop Het Volk - 1.1

Belgium, March 1, 2003

2002 Results     Past winners    Riding the Het Volk parcours with fakta


By Jeff Jones

Peter Van Petegem
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

Belgium holds its first race of the season a little later than most European countries, but that only adds to the anticipation amongst the country's ardent cycling fans. The Omloop Het Volk, which literally means "circuit of the people", but actually derives its name from the sponsoring newspaper, is one of the biggest races in Belgium - probably second only to the Ronde Van Vlaanderen in popularity. Although the parcours does not differ greatly from many of the other Belgian semi-classics, Het Volk's position at the beginning of calendar gives it a heightened status, as everyone has been waiting over four months for it.

The defending champion is the quietly spoken Lotto top man, Peter Van Petegem, whose name features in the past winners list no less than three times. Only Joseph Bruyere and Ernest Sterckx have won three editions of this classic, and Van Petegem is certainly capable of winning a fourth. Those who know him say that he's not a big one for training extra hard, he just does the kilometres, turns up on race day and lets everyone have it. He's ready for Het Volk 2003 and so is his team, which contains the likes of Robbie McEwen, Serge Baguet and Leon van Bon.

One man who takes a slightly different approach and trains himself up to peak condition is the Lion of Flanders, Johan Museeuw (Quick Step-Davitamon), winner of Het Volk in 2000. At the moment, Museeuw says he's feeling good in the legs, although the race comes a little early in the season for him. However his team contains several riders with the capability to win: Italian Paolo Bettini won the Tour of the Med and is in great condition already. He's a rider who can climb as well as sprint, and he should have an excellent chance in Het Volk. So too does 1999 winner Frank Vandenbroucke, whose knee has been troubling him a little but hasn't seemed to have affected his condition. Vandenbroucke flew up the Oude Kwaremont on Wednesday during training, and is a rider who is very hungry for a big win again.

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago boasts the Belgian champion Tom Steels in its ranks, and he is another rider hungry for a big victory. Winner of a stage of the Etoile des Besseges already this year, Steels says that he has "refreshed his memory" of the parcours, and that will help him stay out of the wind when it counts.

Steffen Wesemann
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

Looking at the non-Belgian teams, Telekom's classics specialist Steffen Wesemann will be a key man for this race, although Daniele Nardello should also be more than useful. Cofidis contains a number of riders who want to do well in Het Volk, with Nico Mattan, Chris Peers and Jo Planckaert the main men.

Look out for FDJeux's classics man in the making, Baden Cooke, winner of three races already this year and hungry for more. In the other French teams, Credit Agricole's Marcus Ljunqvist, Thor Hushovd and Stuart O'Grady should be watched, while Ag2R's Jaan Kirsipuu will also be a threat if he can get to the finish in the front group.

Rabobank seems to be putting its eggs in the Oscar Freire basket, although Mathew Hayman, Robert Hunter and Marc Wauters will surely lend a hand. Fellow Dutch team Bankgiroloterij is directed by two time Het Volk winner Johan Capiot, and will rely on his in depth information to help them during the race.

US Postal is starting its classics campaign with stalwarts George Hincapie and Viatcheslav Ekimov, with new signing Max van Heeswijk also a handy rider to have on board. Danish squads CSC and Team fakta know the parcours well, and are eager for a good performance in this opening race. Look for Andrea Tafi, Paul Van Hyfte and Arvis Piziks (CSC), and Magnus Bäckstedt, Frank Hřj and Scott Sunderland (fakta).

Of the Italian squads, there are always riders who do well in Belgium. Fassa Bortolo's Sergei Ivanov and Filippo Pozzato, Alessio's Fabio Baldato, Saeco's Dario Pieri and Stefano Zanini, Lampre's Marco Serpellini and last but not least, Sidermec's Gianluca Bortolami and Fred Rodriguez.

Join us for live coverage of the 58th Omloop Het Volk, starting approximately 11:45 local time (5:45 EST/2:45 PST/23:45 AEDT).

Weather: Despite three weeks of bright sunshine and dry weather, the drought is expected to break on Saturday in Belgium, just in time for Het Volk. Rain, probably not too heavy, is predicted, with a maximum of 12 degrees and medium strength winds.

Past winners

2002  Peter Van Petegem (Bel)   200 km in 4.52.30 (41.026 km/h)
2001  Michele Bartoli (Ita)     200 km in 4.52.00 (41.096 km/h)
2000  Johan Museeuw (Bel)       204 km in 5.01.00 (40.664 km/h)
1999  Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel) 202 km in 5.12.00 (38.846 km/h)
1998  Peter Van Petegem (Bel)   202 km in 5.08.00
1997  Peter Van Petegem (Bel)
1996  Tom Steels (Bel)
1995  Franco Ballerini (Ita) 
1994  Wilfried Nelissen (Bel) 
1993  Wilfried Nelissen (Bel) 
1992  Johan Capiot (Bel) 
1991  Andreas Kappes (Ger) 
1990  Johan Capiot (Bel) 
1989  Etienne De Wilde (Bel) 
1988  Ronny Van Holen (Bel) 
1987  Teun Van Vliet (Ned) 
1986  No Race
1985  Eddy Planckaert (Bel) 
1984  Eddy Planckaert (Bel) 
1983  Alfons De Wolf (Bel) 
1982  Alfons De Wolf (Bel) 
1981  Jan Raas (Ned) 
1980  Joseph Bruyere (Bel) 
1979  Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel) 
1978  Freddy Maertens (Bel) 
1977  Freddy Maertens (Bel) 
1976  Willem Peeters (Bel) 
1975  Joseph Bruyere (Bel) 
1974  Joseph Bruyere (Bel) 
1973  Eddy Merckx (Bel) 
1972  Frans Verbeeck (Bel) 
1971  Eddy Merckx (Bel) 
1970  Frans Verbeeck (Bel) 
1969  Roger DeVlaeminck (Bel) 
1968  Herman Vanspringel (Bel) 
1967  Willy Vekemans (Bel) 
1966  Jo De Roo (Ned) 
1965  Noél De Pauw (Bel) 
1964  Frans Melckenbeek (Bel) 
1963  René Van Meenen (Bel) 
1962  Robert DeMiddeleir (Bel) 
1961  Arthur De Cabooter (Bel) 
1960  No Race
1959  Seamus Elliott (Ire) 
1958  Joseph  Planckaert (Bel) 
1957  Norbert Kerckhove (Bel) 
1956  Ernest Sterckx (Bel) 
1955  Lode Anthonis (Bel) 
1954  Karel De Baere (Bel) 
1953  Ernest Sterckx (Bel) 
1952  Ernest Sterckx (Bel) 
1951  Jean Bogaerts (Bel) 
1950  André Declerck (Bel) 
1949  André Declerck (Bel) 
1948  Sylvain Grysolle (Bel) 
1947  Albert Sercu (Bel) 
1946  André Pieters (Bel) 
1945  Jean Bogaerts (Bel) 

Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com