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By VeloNews Interactive wire services , Copyright AFP2003
Johan Museeuw said Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix was his last.
The Lion of Flanders struggled through his 16th Paris-Roubaix as a professional and said he would not race again on the cobbles of northern France.
“As a racer, I will never enter the Roubaix velodrome again hoping to win the Paris-Roubaix. I will be back for other reasons, but this is the last time I will race,” said Museeuw told the Belgian press after finishing a lack-luster 33rd at 4:33 back.
Museeuw flatted on the cobbled section at Hornaing with 81km to go and the gap opened up to just over 1 minute and it was obvious Museeuw wasn’t coming back. Museeuw said he’s not done racing just yet.
“I believe I can still win races later this season. As I have done in the past, I can win at HEW Cyclassics or the Amstel race,” he said. “It’s unfortunate I did not take a victory in the Flandrian classics.”
Museeuw may not be back, but, with three memorable wins under his belt, the legacy is bound to stick around for a while.
Posties pinpoint Hincapie’s ailment
U.S. Postal Service sport directeur Dirk Demol said tests have revealed what’s been ailing classics specialist George Hincapie. According to Demol, it’s a type of blood parasite that’s impaired Hincapie’s ability to breathe and recover since January.
“Now we know what it is, it’s something that we can clear up quickly,” Demol told VeloNews before the start of Paris-Roubaix. “Now we hope to get George ready for the Tour de France, that’s the most important thing.”
Hincapie has been back in the United States since he announced he would not be able to compete in the spring classics, the highlight of the year for the popular Postal rider.
“Without George here, it’s a completely different team,” Demol said. “We could always count on George. He’s a leader like Lance. He can take the team to a new level.”
Max Van Heeswijk and Viatcheslav Ekimov were the team’s top riders. Van Heeswijk flatted then crashed but hung on to finish 23rd at 2:28 back while Ekimov scored Postal’s second consecutive third-place podium.
Ekimov said he spoke with Hincapie in the days before the race.
“George gave me a call three days ago to wish me good luck and he apologized for not being able to be here,” Ekimov said. “It seems like he’s getting better and he will be back in May.”
Ekimov said Demol believed him when the Russian said he would be ready for Paris-Roubaix.
“Dirk said it would be a dream to finish on the podium without George here,” Ekimov said moments after securing the third place. “I think today we lived that dream.”
Vandenbroucke and Boonen feeling better
Quick Step’s Frank Vandenbroucke and Tom Boonen both said they are feeling better following crashes in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. Vandenbroucke crashed before the first cobbles at Troisville and pulled out at the first feed.
“I feel pretty much rested today,” Vandenbroucke said Monday. “I’ll be training tomorrow and if everything goes well, I will be starting at Sheldeprijs on Wednesday.”
Boonen also crashed and aggravated a strain in his left leg caused by his dramatic finish-line crash in Wednesday’s Gent-Wevelgem. Quick Step reported that he trained without pain Monday and will start Sheldeprijs.
Defending World Cup champion Paolo Bettini’s chances of a repeat took a huge hit Monday as his Quick Step squad confirmed that he is unlikely to start the next two races in the World Cup series.
The Italian had already been forced to skip Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix due to ligament injuries sustained during last week’s Ghent-Wevelgem, a non-World Cup spring classic last Wednesday. “After watching Paris-Roubaix on television I had a go on the bike,” said Bettini, who admitted he found the attempt too painful. As a result, he will miss the next three races – Amstel Gold Race (April 20) and Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 27), both World Cup events, and Fleche Wallonne (April 23).
“My two main objectives this season were the Milan-San Remo and Liege-Bastogne-Liege,” said Bettini, who won at San Remo in March.
“I’m really sorry to have to pull out of Liege. But I have to think first about getting better. Afterwards it will be time to think about the second part of the season, about the World Cup in particular.”
Meanwhile, Quick Step said that their Belgian cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke was on the mend after a fall during Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix.
“I’ll be back in training tomorrow. If all goes well I’ll race Wednesday in the Escaut Grand Prix,” said Vandenbroucke.
Ullrich’s season still uncertain
Former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich’s return to competition could be short-lived if the financial situation of his Team Coast is not clarified immediately, officials from the Union Cycliste Internationale said Monday.
A bank guarantee requested by the UCI to cover the recruitment of the 29-year-old German and other team members was still not deposited by Monday afternoon.
Ullrich had intended to compete in the Tour of Aragon, Spain on Wednesday. But a UCI official told the French wire service AFP that Ullrich’s planned start may not pan out.
“No bank guarantee, no Ullrich,” he said.
The Olympic champion, who won the Tour de France in 1997 and has been runner-up four times, made his return to competition last week in the Circuit de la Sarthe, after more than a year on the sidelines following a drugs ban and injuries. He finished 20th in the French race.
Coast signed Ullrich in January but were suspended briefly two months later after financial irregularities were discovered in their salaries payments to team riders.