By Andrew Hood
Henk Vogels nearly delivered a big result for the Navigators during its second European sorjourn of the 2003 season. Vogels finished second, just two seconds behind winner Sebastien Joly (Jean Delatour), in Friday’s GP Adelie in Vitre, France.
Joly came across the line in 4 hours, 34 minutes, 38 seconds, while the Australian won the bunch sprint ahead of such names as Laurent Brochard (Ag2r), winner of the Criterium International last weekend. Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis) and Jens Voigt (Credit Agricole) came across the line fourth and fifth, respectively.
The GP Adelie was the fourth stop in the French Cup series. Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) didn’t start, but retained the overall lead while Joly moved into second overall in the standings. The fifth round in Sunday’s GP Rennes and the Navigators will be among the field.Results, GP Adelie (1.3 UCI)
1. Sébastien Joly (Fra), Jean Delatour, 4 hours, 34 minutes, 38 seconds (40.483 kph)
2. Henk Vogels (Aus), Navigators, at 2 seconds
3. Laurent Brochard (F), Ag2r
4. Cédric Vasseur (F), Cofidis
5. Jens Voigt (G), Credit Agricole — all same time
Tour of Flanders on SundayThe 87th Tour of Flanders is sure to be an open battle with pre-race favorite Johan Museeuw (Quick Step) looking like he’ll be less than 100-percent if he decides to start Sunday.
The 255km course from Brugge to Meerbeke is the highlight of the Belgian racing calendar and hundreds of thousands of fans are sure to turn out to watch their heroes tackle the cobbles in what many call the most emotional classic.
This year’s course includes three new climbs to bring the total of 19 climbs over the parcours with about 22km of cobbled sections. The first climb – the cobbled Nokerebeg – doesn’t come until 89km. The second climb is the cobbled Molenberg 127km and the third climb is the Wolvenberg at 137km.
By the time the racers hit the Kluisberg climb at 160km, there are 16 climbs over the final 95 km including five consecutive cobbled climbs, starting at Oude-Kwaremont at 177km through the Taaienberg climb at 195km. There are seven more climbs over the next 30km with a flat 2km section of cobbles just before the Leberg climb at 220km.
The final two climbs both feature cobbles – the Muur-Kapelmuur at 239km and the Bosberg at 242km – and are always lined with tens of thousands of crazed fans.
Weather forecasters are calling for windy but mostly clear skies. With the rain, the cobbled climbs become even more treacherous.
Museeuw (Quick Step) is the sentimental favorite to win his record fourth Flanders, but the Lion of Flanders has been fighting a chest cold for nearly two weeks and will make an announcement later Friday on whether or not he’ll start.
Paris-Roubaix phenom Tom Boonen is also under the weather, leaving the Quick Step-Davitamon to rely on Paolo Bettini, Frank Vandenbroucke and Luca Paolini. Bettini won Milan-San Remo, but the cobbled Belgian roads could prove too rough and tumble for the Cricket. Vandenbroucke could finally shine in what’s been a steady comeback for the troubled Belgian while Paolini has been solid all season long.
With Museeuw a question-mark, the natural next favorite is Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo). Van Petegem won Flanders in 1999 and wants desperately to win again. Gianluca Bortolami (Sidermec) says he’s in better form than when he won Flanders in 2001 and will have solid support from former world champion Romans Vainsteins and American Fred Rodriguez.
Rabobank might take up the slack if Quick Step doesn’t dominate the afternoon. Michael Boogerd, fresh off his win last weekend at Fleche Barbanconne, and two-time world champion Oscar Freire are sure to be protagonists.
Defending champion Andrei Tafi (CSC) says he’s not in top form while compatriot Fabio Baldato (Alessio) is enjoying his best form in years, winning the second stage of Three Days of La Panne. Baldato’s twice finished second at Flanders and is an outside shot to step up one higher on the podium.
Telekom’s Steffen Wesemann is always strong in the northern classics and is due for a major breakthrough victory. Cofidis will be super-motivated with Nico Mattan and Jo Planckaert, both who could shake things up. World champion Mario Cipollini will be representing the rainbow jersey while La Panne champion Raivis Belohvoscikcs is also an outside shot.
Saeco will split responsibilities between Dario Pieri and Mirko Celestino, second at Milan-San Remo and winner at Coppi e Bartali last week. The Posties (see below) will be starting without George Hincapie, who finished fourth last year.
Last 10 winners:
1994, Gianni Bugno (I)
1995: Johan Museeuw (B)
1996: Michele Bartoli (I)
1997: Rolf Sorensen (Den)
1998: Johan Museeuw (B)
1999: Peter Van Petegem (B)
2000: Andrei Tchmil (B)
2001: Gianluca Bortolami (I)
2002: Andrea Tafi (I)Wins by nation:
Netherlands and Italy: 9 each
Germany, Denmark, Great Britain and Switzerland: 1 each.Record wins
Four riders with three victories each
Achiel Buysse (B): 1940-41, ‘43
Fiorenzi Magni (I): 1949-51
Eric Leman (B): 1970, 1972-73
Johan Museeuw (B): 1993, ’95, ‘98
Posties dream without George
George Hincapie is back home with a lingering virus instead of on his beloved cobbles, so his U.S. Postal Service will rely on Max Van Heeswijk and Viatcheslav Ekimov to try to make something happen.
Postal’s sport director for the classics, Dirk Demol, said there are some positives despite Hincapie’s glaring absence. Ekimov and Van Heeswijk are ready to step up.
“The good thing is the last couple of weeks, Max has been in his best shape ever and we will try and have him in top shape for what I call ‘super week,’” Demol said in a team press release. “He is fine now and ready to go.”
“Eki is riding very well and will be ready for Sunday. He very much likes the course and will be our man for Sunday. I have more confidence in him for Flanders and with Max for Gent-Wevelgem and Roubaix,” Demol said. “Flanders, with its 254 kilometers and climbs, is a bit too hard for Max while races like Wevelgem and Roubaix are perfect for him. With Eki and Max, we can probably do something.”
Demol said riding without Hincapie during the Classics is like riding the Tour de France without Lance Armstrong.
“It’s a completely different team with or without George,” Demol said. “It’s like not having Lance for the big stage races. Everyone goes to a different level when their leader takes charge. The day the team announced George was out for the spring Classics, the team lost a bit of its morale. Yes, we are all professionals and it shouldn’t be that way, but that is what happened. We now need to rally around who we have, and Max and Eki have been great. However, it makes a big difference not having George here. I hope it happens only once that we are here without him. When you have a true leader to work for, the guys do all they can and go all out.”
Other racing this weekend
If Flanders wasn’t enough, there are other races this weekend on the continent. On Friday, the Frenchies race the fourth round of the French Cup series at the Route Adelie. The series continues Sunday with the GP Rennes, where the Navigators will be starting as defending champions. Series leader Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) won’t be starting due to a linger cold, so other French stars will be looking to fill the void in this important series for French riders.
On Saturday, the GP Miguel Indurain attracts many of the top grand tour riders heading to Monday’s start of the Tour of the Basque Country. Many of the protagonists for the upcoming Giro d’Italia will be using the Spanish races to hone their form.
Pantani says he might race with another team at Tour
Marco Pantani will be racing next week at the Tour of the Basque Country and hinted he still might make an appearance at the 2003 Tour de France racing with another team.
Pantani’s Mercatone Uno is all but sure not to be invited to the centennial Tour, but Pantani said he’s mulling all his options. Pantani says he’s entering the 2003 Giro d’Italia with eyes on the overall final victory.
“If I win the Giro or have good form, I’m not discounting riding in the Tour with another team,” Pantani said in the Spanish daily AS. “My objective is to win the Giro. I am going for the general (classification).”
Pantani said he’s the only rider capable of attacking four-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong. Last week in L’Equipe, Pantani said Armstrong was vulnerable when he’s attacked early in long mountain stages. When asked who can beat Armstrong, Pantani had an interesting answer.
“Only Pantani. Armstrong marks his differences in the mountains, because nobody truly attacks him. If you put him under pressure, I’m sure he’d in crisis,” Pantani said. “I have the capacity to resist his first attack, where he makes a difference and then he’s able to maintain it with this strange pedaling style of his. If someone can resist this first acceleration, he could get nervous and then he’s beatable. And I don’t believe he’s the best climber in the world.”
Hmmm. Racing fans are hoping Pantani does make it to the 2003 Tour just to see the two face-off.