How “Il Grillo” chirped his way to World Cup Glory
93rd Milan-San Remo
Italy, March 23, 2002
The Lion King and his newly formed Zebra striped team finally managed to gain what had been Cipollini’s major ambitions - victory in San Remo, Italy’s most famous race. With a superb team in support, experienced and able to "read" a race with text book precision the Acqua & Sapone men had not panicked when Bettini had launched an attack on the Poggio with what looked at the time to be a race winning move.
However for once, Bettini, "Il Grillo," had chirped too early and he was pulled back to allow Super Mario to take a memorable victory from America’s Fred Rodriguez and peloton ravaged by an earlier accident.
While “Ete” Zabel could complain of being held up by an accident, others involved were not so lucky. Defending World Cup champion Erik Dekker (Rabobank) was seriously injured and his season over before it started, while Danilo Di Luca (Saeco-Longoni Sport) was also sidelined for several months.
1 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo 6.39.30 (43.105 km/h)
2 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Domo-Farm Frites
3 Marcus Zberg (Swi) Rabobank
1 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo 100 pts
2 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Domo-Farm Frites 70
3 Marcus Zberg (Swi) Rabobank 50
86th Ronde van Vlaanderen
Belgium, April 7, 2002
So with Cipollini the toast of Italy and the fans from the USA delighted with the performance of “Fast Freddy” and full of optimism for George Hincapie, the peloton moved North to the cold damp fields of Flanders.
While it is true that many cyclists day dream of winning the Tour de France for an equal number victory in one of the true Northern Classics would be the ultimate achievement. The 86th edition of this famous race proved to be a classic in every sense of the word.
Once again it was Bettini who made the first telling attack of the day with 55 kilometres to go on the Koppenberg, a bold move but one which was equally matched by the true specialists. Tafi made his first of many attacks over the top of the climb, forcing the crucial race selection.
Attack and counter attack, with the leading teams all working hard for their Captains, saw the contenders reduce to just five men, Tafi, Museeuw, Van Petegem, Hincapie and Nardello. Tafi, the most active man of the day, realised that a small sprint finish would not suit him, and launched a truly awesome attack with just 4 kilometres to go - he kept his narrow lead to the finish.
1 Andrea Tafi (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 6.53.00 (38.354 km/h)
2 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites 0.21
3 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Adecco
1 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua e Sapone 120 pts
2 Andrea Tafi (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 100pts
3 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Domo-Farm Frites 79pts
France, April 14, 2002
"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," neither it seems does Johan Museeuw. Bitterly disappointed by his “failure” in the tour of Flanders where he had been looking to take a record fourth victory, the “Lion” and his team came to France in fighting mood.
Museeuw, once again proved to be master of the slippy cobbles and his experience and racing judgement proved once again to be matchless in the "Hell of the North." A bold attack, with still over 40 kilometres of racing to go, saw him storm to solo winning glory with a winning margin of over three minutes.
Steffen Wesemann again proved how well he can cope with the conditions, and once again he rode much of the race with pedal problems to take a throughly deserved second place.
If the Lion of Flanders was the king - his natural sucessor “lion cub” Tom Boonen was the day's revelation. At the head of the race almost from the start, US Postal's Tom Boonen showed a maturity and skill beyond his years, in what was one of the performances of the year. Meanwhile teammate George Hincapie moved steadily up the World Cup rankings with another solid show, but marred by his crash on pave section 4, Camphin-En Pevele, which certainly cost him a better finish.
1 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites 6.39.08 (39.35 km/h)
2 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) Team Telekom 3.04
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) US Postal Service 3.08
1 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites 170 pts
2 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone Cantina 120pts
3 Andrea Tafi (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 109pts.
Museeuw and Mud!
Belgium, April 21, 2002
Cycle racing, it is said, is an individual sport undertaken by a team. It is the concept of team riding that is probably the most difficult for newcomers to the sport to understand. However, should any new enthusiast wish to learn the role of the Directeur Sportif and the team to a victory they could do no better than to study the video of this years edition of “La Doyenne.”
With the peloton gradually reeling in lone breakaway Salanson (Bonjour), with over 50 kilometres to the finish and the rest of the bunch thinking of la Redoute climb further on down the road, Mapei D.S. Serge Parsani launched a surprie attack that effectively won the race for his team.
Garzelli made a searing attack on the Cote de la Vecquée which totally surprised the slumbering peloton - only 12 men, including team mate Bettini, were quick enough to catch his wheel. From that moment on Bettini and Garzelli gave a near perfect display of team riding which first managed to demoralise the chasing peloton and then picked off the fellow breakaway men one by one until the Mapei pair could ride in triumph, to the delight of the “Tifosi Belga,” to a glorious double victory.
Bettini's second Liege victory moved him up into third place on the World Cup Standings, this being cycling though there was no happy ending for Garzelli. His flash of brilliance at Liege was to be lost in the mires of non negative results, accusation and counter accusation, and some conclusions that would have far-reaching consequences to all of cycling.
Maybe it is better for the fan to wear his rose tinted sunglasses and think back to the sunny day in Spring when the Italian duo ruled La Doyenne?
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 6.39.44 (38.8 km/h)
2 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step
3 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 0.15
1 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites 170 pts
2 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone Cantina Tollo 120pts
3 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 110pts
Photos thanks to Gazetta, UCI and DP. Regarding these photos, please contact email@example.com.