By Andrew Hood
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) proved he’s the natural successor for the departingJohan Museeuw after the young Belgian won Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs Vlaanderenon the same day his mentor, teammate and friend raced his last as a pro.
In what was the final race for Belgian classics legend Johan Museeuw, fittingly, it was his 23-year-old Quick Step team-mate who took the plaudits.
Boonen, whom many believe is worthy of emulating his revered compatriot, held off Lotto’s Robbie McEwen and De Nardi’s Simone Cadamuro at the finish line of the 200km race between Antwerp and Schoten. It was his second victory in a week after winning the Ghent-Wevelgem one-day classic a week ago.
The 38-year-old Museeuw retires with 11 World Cup victories to his name. He is also a former world champion and the only rider to win the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix three times each.
Museeuw’s chances of winning this race, which usually favors the peloton’s pure sprinters, were always going to be slim but he gave it a go, attacking with 10km to the finish line.
However the “Lion of Flanders” efforts were kept in check by a field that, even on his farewell race, seemed unwilling to let him loose.
Instead, Museeuw sacrificed his final chance at glory for the cause of Boonen, whom he helped almost all the way to the finish line before finishing in 77th position.
Boonen’s victory seemed all but assured until McEwen caught up at the last second. The Australian was kept in check and later on complained, unsuccessfully, to the jury that he had been impeded.
Although Museeuw is now definitively retired – he has ‘retired’ before and come back to competition – Belgium seems well equipped for success in future one-day races.
Boonen is the leading light in a generation of younger Belgians who look set to dominate the one-day classics such as the Tour of Flanders and the Paris-Roubaix, which as of next year will form part of a new international racing calendar after the International Cycling Union carries out major reforms.
Having come third on his Paris-Roubaix debut two years ago while he was riding for Lance Armstrong’s US Postal team, Boonen had already been nominated Museeuw’s heir.
Museeuw’s mentor, Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere, paid tribute to the veteran Belgian on his last day at the races.
“I saw in his eyes he was very emotional,” said Lefevere. “I’m proud to have spent these past 13 years with Johan. There has been a lot of pain but also a lot of joy. It’s been good.
“Johan has been a giant for Belgian cycling, in the mould of (Rik) Van Steenbergen, (Rik) Van Looy, (Eddy) Merckx.”
92nd Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen (BEL 1.1)
1. Tom Boonen (B), Quick Step, 200km in 4:19:11
2. Robbie McEwen (Aus), Lotto-Domo
3. Simone Cadamuro (I), De Nardi
4. Enrico Poitschke (G), Team Wiesenhof
5. Bernhard Eisel (Aut), FDJeux.com, all s.t.
Menchov grabs Aragon lead
For the past few years, Leonardo Piepoli has owned the Tour of Aragon.The Italian won three of the past four editions and entered Wednesday’s“queen stage” with the week’s lone summit finish with ambitions of continuingthe streak.
But Banesto – now Illes-Balears – also thought it owned the race. Piepoli,now on Saunier Duval, ran into a motivated and fit Denis Menchov as thefinal quartet of riders hit the 10km climb up to the Valdelinares ski area.
Menchov and Piepoli were joined by Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola)and Koldo Gil (Liberty Seguros) for the grueling climb to the still snow-coveredsummit.
Piepoli set a blistering pace, preventing Illes Balears teammate FrancescoMancebo from bridging up with 5km to go. Gil attacked with 800m to go,but Menchov – fresh off his victory at the Tour of the Basque Country –was strongest of the winning four.
The surging Russian won the stage ahead of Garzelli and took the 10-secondbonus which could be the decisive difference as the remaining four stageshave profiles favoring the sprinters.
“We’ll have to watch out for breakaways but our team is motivated tokeep the race ‘in house,’” Menchov said after winning in 4 hours, 19 minutes,42 seconds. “The sprinter teams will want to control the race so that willhelp us.”
With the time bonuses, Menchov takes a 4sec lead over Garzelli, 6secover Piepoli and 10sec over Gil. Josep Jufre (Relax-Bodysol) came throughfifth at 35sec back.
The Tour of Aragon continues Thursday with the 167km second stage fromCalenda to Babastro, a rolling stage that favors Alessandro Petacchi (FassaBortolo).
Tour of Aragon (SPA 2.2)
Tereul to Valdelinares ski area
1. Denis Menchov (Rus), Illes Balears, 162km in 4:19:42
2. Stefano Garzelli (I), Vini Caldirola
3. Leonardo Piepoli (I), Saunier Duval
4. Koldo Gil (Sp), Liberty Seguros, all s.t
5. Josef Jufre (Sp), Relax-Bodysol, at 0:35Overall
1. Denis Menchov (Rus), Illes Balears, 162km in 4:19:42
2. Stefano Garzelli (I), Vini Caldirola, at 0:04
3. Leonardo Piepoli (I), Saunier Duval, at 0:06
4. Koldo Gil (Sp), Liberty Seguros, at 0:10
5. Josef Jufre (Sp), Relax-Bodysol, at 0:45
Manzano names names
Jesus Manzano – the ex-Kelme rider who’s been talking to the press about alleged organized doping within the pro ranks – finally got his day in court.
Or at least before the Spanish cycling federation, Real Federación Española de Ciclismo, where Manzano presented “pharmaceutical prescriptions and doping plans” from the 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons with Kelme.
Manzano also reportedly mentioned specific names, something he hasn’t done yet in his public statements about the supposed organized doping within the Spanish team, according to a report by Europa Press. He also presented 13 pharmaceutical prescriptions and 11 medical outlines of the doping procedures.
“This is a slow process and they will be learning more things, even though this has been tried to be covered up,” Manzano said. “I already took it to the sports council but they passed it to the cycling federation.”
Manzano’s revelations have rocked Spanish cycling, but he’s also been bashed by some, particularly officials from the Kelme team who insist he’s obsessed with revenge and is seeking monetary gain from his declarations.
Manzano, meanwhile, said he even received a death threat if he maintained his public campaign.
Julich will have strong team in Georgia
American Bobby Julich (CSC) will have the support of a strong team next week for the Dodge Tour of Georgia. Julich, fresh off his first victory since 1997 at the final time trial stage at the Tour of the Basque Country, is motivated to have a strong race in front of the home crowd.
Team CSC — already winners this spring of the Tour Mediterranean, Paris-Nice and Criterium International — will be supporting Julich as he races in the United States for the first time since 1996. Team CSC for Dodge Tour of Georgia
Thomas Bruun Eriksen
Cycling legend Johan Museeuw (Quick Step) retires in the Scheldiprijs Vlaanderen (BEL 1.1) in Belgium … The five-day Tour of Aragon (SPA 2.2.) starts in Spain where Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) will make his first appearance since Milan-San Remo.
Start list for Tour of AragonCAFES BAQUE
TORRES, FernandoPATERNINA-C. ALMERIA
GOLBANO, Carlos Ramón
GOMEZ, José Angel
VERDUGO, GorkaFASSA BORTOLO
DE LOS ANGELES, Juanjo
ARRIETA, José Luis
ZANDIO, XabierC. VALENCIANA-KELME
P. RODRIGUEZ, Javier
OLMO, AntonioLIBERTY SEGUROS
DIAZ JUSTO, Rafael
G. DE GALDEANO, Alvaro
G. DE GALDEANO, Igor
DEL OLMO, Txema
ZINTCHENKO, AndreiPHONAK H. SYSTEMS
ELIAS, José Miguel
REBOLLO, José Luis
SZMYD, SylvesterSAUNIER DUVAL-PRODIR
GOMEZ LITU, Angel
DE LA FUENTE, David
GONZALEZ, JavierVINI CALDIROLA-NOBILI