By VeloNews Interactive, Copyright AFP2004
After finishing third in the fourth and final stage, U.S Postal’s George Hincapie has won the overall title at the Three Days of De Panne, the warm-up before this weekend’s World Cup race, the Tour of Flanders.
Quick Step’s Hungarian time trial specialist, Lazlo Bodrogi, won the final stage a 13.7km time trial at Le Panne in northern Belgium.
Hincapie’s victory is the ninth of the season by the Postal team. Hincapie entered Thursday’s 13.7km time trial in third place overall, 16 seconds back of race leader Baden Cooke of FDJeux.com. Hincapie finished the stage five seconds behind Bodrogi to clinch the overall.
“It feels really good,” said Hincapie. “I knew Cooke was 16 seconds ahead but was thinking more about (Fassa Bortolo’s Fabian) Cancellara, who wins time trials, and (Rabobank’s Marc) Wauters, who does really well in time trials. Those guys are very dangerous.”
Cancellara (14th overall entering the time trial) and Wauters (16th) started the final stage four seconds behind Hincapie and 20 seconds back from Cooke. However, Hincapie felt confident of his chances.
“Normally, this time trial is a good distance for me – anything under 15km is good for me,” said Hincapie. “I didn’t know I had won as my radio stopped working right towards the end – I didn’t hear that part.”
Hincapie said he rode to the team bus following the stage and didn’t realize he had won until “people started running after me telling me I had won,” he said.
The man at the other end of the radio had no idea that his words of encouragement were disappearing into the ether.
“I was screaming in the radio – ‘George, you can win! Go! Go! Go!,'” said Postal’s assistant team manager Dirk Demol. “He did the second part of the race without his radio working.
“It’s a nice win for the morale of the team. The faces of everyone on the team told the story – everyone was really happy for George. It’s a good sign for Sunday (Tour of Flanders) and then next Sunday (Paris-Roubaix). He is in great shape – fifth overall at Paris-Nice, being there in Milan San Remo (13th) and now winning De Panne.”
“It’s a good feeling to win today, as I trained very hard for this week and for the next two weeks,” said Hincapie. “It’s a good sign, but I will start thinking about Sunday (Flanders) on Saturday night.”
Demol said to have a chance in Flanders, the team around Hincapie must be strong.
“I think our team is much stronger than in the past,” said Demol. “Max (van Heeswijk) called to say he trained six hours on Sunday’s course and said ‘tell him I’m ready for Sunday.’ So with George and Max at the level from a few weeks ago, plus Eki (Viatcheslav Ekimov), (Stijn) Devolder, (Antonio) Cruz, (Benoit) Joachim, Pavel (Padrnos) and likely Ryder (Hesjedal), we should be ready.”Stage Results
1. Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Quick Step, 13.7km in 16:37
2. Robert Bartko (G) Rabobank, at 0:04
3. George Hincapie (USA) U.S. Postal, at 0:05
4. Bradley McGee (Aus) FDJeux.com, at 0:10
5. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo, at 0:12
Final overall standings
1. George Hincapie (USA) U.S. Postal
2. Danilo Hondo (G) Gerolsteiner, at 0:10
3. Gerben Löwik (Nl) Chocolade Jacques, s.t.
4. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo, at 0:11
5. Marc Wauters (B) Rabobank, at 0:12
Manzano fears for life
Spanish cyclist Jesus Manzano, who alleged he was subjected to widespread doping at his former team Kelme, claimed Thursday that he has received death threats.
“I’ve received threats. Someone with an unidentified number called me on my mobile phone and told me that a contract had been put on my life. My life is worth 3000 euros,” said Manzano.
The 25-year-old, who has agreed a deal to ride for the Italian Amore e Vita stable and joined his new team for an audience with Pope John Paul II on Wednesday, said however that he was relieved by his confessions.
“I stand by everything I’ve said – the EPO, the transfusions, the organized doping within Kelme,” said Manzano. “A 100 kilo weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I don’t regret having spoken.”
He added that he intends handing over photocopies of the prescriptions he received, and all the incriminating paperwork, which is currently locked away in a bank safe, to authorities.
Manzano told the Spanish Sports Council that testers are regularly fooled by team doctors and claimed that professional cycling is awash with growth hormones and the banned blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO).
He supplied the names of doctors and team managers he claimed were involved in widespread doping.