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Thursday’s Zolder notebook: Warm Zolder; Horner eyes Europe; Posties here in force and more

What is this, Jamaica? Zolder smoldered under the (relative) tropical heat of a bright autumn sun for the third day in a row. Winds continued to blow hard across the flatlands of Flanders for Thursday’s elite men’s individual time trial, but forecasters are calling for good, old-fashioned bleak Belgian weather for the weekend. Rain, wind and cold; the perfect recipe for an epic weekend of racing. Colombia’s Santiago Botero roared his way to the gold medal, while Germany’s Michael Rich settled for second for the second time in three years and Spain’s Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano hung on for

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What is this, Jamaica?

Zolder smoldered under the (relative) tropical heat of a bright autumn sun for the third day in a row. Winds continued to blow hard across the flatlands of Flanders for Thursday’s elite men’s individual time trial, but forecasters are calling for good, old-fashioned bleak Belgian weather for the weekend. Rain, wind and cold; the perfect recipe for an epic weekend of racing.

Colombia’s Santiago Botero roared his way to the gold medal, while Germany’s Michael Rich settled for second for the second time in three years and Spain’s Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano hung on for third.

The men’s event wrapped up the time trial races of the 2002 road cycling world championships. Road racing kicks off Friday morning with the junior women followed by the U23 men.

Horner hints at European return
Chris Horner hinted he’d like to race once again with a European team. After racing three years with a French team in the late 1990s, Horner returned to race the domestic scene to post impressive results. At the men’s elite time trial, Horner was hoping for a strong finish would earn him a spot back in the European peloton.

“I finished No. 1 in America, but I can’t seem to get any interest from the European teams. I match up to any American rider in terms of results, except one,” Horner said after finishing 36th. “I’m not willing to come over here and make $30,000 when I can get paid so well to race in America.”

Horner raced three years with Française des Jeux (now FDJeux.com), but returned to race in the United States after a frustrating experience in Europe. Now he says he’s more mature and ready to take another stab at the European racing scene.

“Now I’m a little older and I think I could adjust to it better,” Horner said. “You’d think after all the success American racers have had in Europe, you think the European teams would be willing to fish from another pond.” Horner said he’ll likely remain in the U.S. and is considering offers from Saturn and his current Prime Alliance team.

Strong Postal presence
Everyone at the world championships is asking, “Where is Postal Service?” While it’s true Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie aren’t at Zolder, there are no less than seven Posties racing in the world’s. Benoit Joachim, Steffan Kjaergaard, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Victor Hugo Pena, Dylan Casey, Antonio Cruz and Tom Boonen are among the U.S. Postal Service riders competing in the elite men’s time trial and road races this week in Belgium.

Rasmussen signs two years with Rabobank
Former mountain bike world champion Michael Rasmussen signed a two-year deal to join Levi Leipheimer at the Dutch Rabobank team. Rasmussen raced the past two years with CSC-Tiscali and told VeloNews that he had already signed a deal to continue with Tyler Hamilton’s team for the 2003 season. But Rabobank came offering a two-year deal, something that he said he hasn’t had since 1997. Rasmussen helped Hamilton finished second overall in the 2002 Giro d’Italia and won a difficult mountain stage at the Tour of Burgos in August.

Start lists for junior women, U23
Magen Long and Larssyn Staley will do the best they can against a competitive field of 68 starters dominated by Europeans in the junior women’s road race. The six-lap, 76.8-km race will come down to who’s strongest as the winds and high speeds will take it out of the juniors. Only Italian silver medalist Tatiana Guderzo will be returning from the junior women’s time trial podium. In the U23, the American team comes with good chances with a strong five-man team including Michael Creed, Mark Fitzgerald (both who raced in the time trial), Shawn Milne, Jonathan Retseck and Dale Suttle. The 166-km, 13-lap race will be punishing in what’s expected to be an attack-riddled race.

2002 Road Cycling World Championships – Thursday, October 10, 2002
Elite men’s individual time trial podium1. Santiago Botero, Colombia; 2. Michael Rich, Germany; 3. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, Spain
Weather: Sunny, windy, temperatures in the 60s, continued mild Friday.
What’s on deck for Friday:
Junior women’s road race, 9:30 p.m
U23 men’s road race, 12:30 p.m.