Johan Museeuw "De Leeuw van Vlaanderen" - The mark of a true Champion is not always counted in victories and trophies. What is often more important is not the result but how the rider arrived at that position.
Museeuw collected his Golden Sprint award, in the Palace of Princes Evêques of Liege, last Friday - organized by the RTBF and the province of Liege - it was the fouth time he had achieved the honour having also won in 1995, 1996 and 1997. The following day in Antwerp, he received Crystal Bicycle, awarded by the newspaper, Het Laatste Nieuws; it was the fifth time that Museeuw that been honoured. The award, chosen by votes from former champions and journalists, was proof, if needed, of Museeuw's unique reputation not only with the press but also with fellow cyclists.
As the only Belgian rider to have triumphed this year in the World Cup races - in Roubaix and Hamburg - the Flandrien proved that at thirty seven years his competitiveness is not being slowed down by old age. Museeuw holds the record for victories in the World cup - he now has eleven to his credit. Museeuw has enhanced his reputation still further in the last few years by managing to make more than one comeback from serious accidents.
A shattered knee cap in the infamous trench of Arenberg in Paris Roubaix '99 which almost cost him his leg would have been enough for many to choose to retire from the sport. One year after, he once again led the field on the concrete cycle-racing track in Roubaix - pointing to his knee cap as he crossed the finishing line as if to say "the Lion is back." After this performance, the summer 2000 saw a traffic accident on a motor bike, which he had bought on a whim and rarely used. Once again the expected retirement announcements were expected to be made, but again we saw a remarkable comeback. "For several years I have rubbed shoulders with many top level sportsmen but none have shown the level of will and determination to return as Museeuw," commented Lieven Maesschaelk.
Johan Museeuw is, by far, the Belgian rider who has dominated the Classic since his first victory in Zurich in 1991 and he now has eleven successes in World Cup events. The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix remain his main targets for the coming season (and he has won three bouquets in each one of these monuments), it is easy to forget that it also finished 27 times on the podium steps of various World Cup races, a trophy which he has won outright on two occasions.
For 2003, Museeuw is clear on his objectives: "What I want, in priority, it is to take victory in the Tour of Flanders and/or Paris-Roubaix. But if I were to really choose, I would be in favour of the Tour of Flandres." Secretly, it is guessed however that he would not be too displeased to win another historical race like Milan-Sanremo!
"Cipollini won the Primavera at 35 years and Tchmil, at 36," says Museeuw. "Sometime I think, well why not me?"
However, the lion of Flanders will surely be aiming to make new records in the Tour of Flanders or Roubaix and a victory on the Via Roma would be the icing on the cake - not the main treat.
The last three years have been a barren, miserable time for the former “golden boy” of Belgium Frank Vandenbroucke. He has changed teams three times; Cofidis, Lampre-Daikin, and Domo Farm Frites - and it seemed that he was wasting away the most precious things that life could give any one: time and talent. Now he’s trying to recapture one then the other in the newborn Quick Step squad of Patrick Lefevere and Serge Parsani, who know him and believe that a ‘top talent ’ like VDB needs to battle on and conquer his existing problems.
At the beginning of his tenth year as a professional and with 50 victories to his name, including, of course, his finest hour at Liege-Bastogne-Liege in ‘99, VDB searches for stimulation to do well. Now he feels mentally liberated and fit in his legs. He’s forgotten the depression that crippled him two years ago and the problems with the bike that caused him to be fired in 2001 from Lampre-Daikin just as the season began; what's more the story of his possession of EPO that cost him six months of suspension this year is now placed firmly in the past too. He reentered racing on the 29th of July in the Tour of Wallonia with the sort of form that only a natural talent could have, however a fractured elbow cost him the chance of competing in the late season classics such as Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia, "which had been my main hopes for the season after so many problems."
Now Vandenbroucke wants to be and be seen as the racer that he once was. "I want to be ready to compete as early as February, at Paris-Nice," he explained to Gazzetta from the Costa Azzura where he is training with his teammate and friend Amorison after an 8 day training camp with his Quick-Step team - "but my real objectives are the first 5 World Cup races: San Remo, Flanders, Roubaix, Amstel, Fleche-Wallone, and Liege. I want to demonstrate to myself that I’m still a racer that can win everything."
He finds himself in a dream team for one day races. But this doesn’t worry him. “Lefevere, the team manager, has known me all his life, he knows what I can do if I’m going well" - he explains - "Museeuw is a maestro, Boonen is a young guy who has time to develop, with Bettini there won’t be problems. For me it’s better to have them on the same team than against me, and I believe that’s the same situation for them. We’ll put ourselves where we need to be in the races, and ride properly like champions and intelligent men. The person who is feeling the best will focus on the win, the others to help him to succeed. Now what counts for me is to pedal well like I have done already, 3-4 hours without any force yet, reaching the right weight and feeling well in my head. I want to accumulate kilometers from now until the end of January and do a lot of gym work: after, you’ll see the Vandenbroucke that you once knew."
Manager Patrick Lefevere
Sport Dir. Wilfried Peeters and Serge Parsani
Frédéric Amorison - DoB - 16/02/1978
Paolo Bettini - DoB - 1/04/1974
Laszlo Bodrogi- DoB - 11/12/1976
Tom Boonen- DoB - 15/10/1980
Davide Bramati- DoB - 28/06/1968
David Cañada - DoB -11/03/1975
Aurèlien Clerc- DoB - 26/08/1979
Wilfried Cretskens- DoB - 10/07/1976
Pedro Horrillo- DoB - 27/09/1974
Kevin Hulsmans - DoB - 11/04/1978
Andrey Kashechkin- DoB - 21/03/1980
Servais Knaven- DoB - 6/03/1971
Johan Museeuw- DoB - 13/10/1965
Nick Nuyens - DoB -5/05/1980
Luca Paolini- DoB - 17/01/1977
Dominco Pasuello- DoB - 24/03/1978
Michael Rogers- DoB - 20/12/1979
Patrik Sinkewitz- DoB - 20/10/1980
Bram Tankink - DoB -3/12/1978
Kurt van de Wouwer- DoB - 24/09/1971
Jurgen Van Goolen- DoB - 28/11/1980
Frank Vandenbroucke- DoB - 6/11/1974
Sven Vanthourenhout- DoB - 14/01/1981
Richard Virenque - DoB -19/11/1969
Piotr Wadecki- DoB - 11/02/1973
Photos thanks to the Johan Museeuw official site -
http://www.johanmuseeuw.com/ and the new (with English version) Quickstep site: