Paris-Roubaix Race reactions
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"Jamais un cloche ne gagne la Pascale"
Henri Suter (1923), Romain Gijssels (1932), Gaston Rebry (1934), Raymond Impanis (1954), Fred De Bruyne (1957), Rik Van Looy (1962) Roger De Vlaeminck (1977) and now Peter van Petegem (2003) - these are the “Aces” who have all managed the seemingly impossible task of winning Paris-Roubaix just one week after winning the Tour de Flandres.
To achieve this fantastic record not only are years of hard work and training required, racing experience and knowledge, hitting the peak of form at the right time but also another woman plays her role in the Queen of Classics, Lady Luck. Van Petegem had his stroke of luck when the sun shone and the strong winds quickly dried out the course. He acknowledged before the start that “the conditions are ideal for me today, I am highly motivated, and I want to profit from my good form.”
So, the weather suited the thirty three year old and his form was good, but what about race tactics?
Peter Van Petegem
“In the Tour of Flandres, I made my attack in Ten Bosse 30 kilometers before the finish in Meerbeke. Today I attacked 20 kilometers before the velodrome, in the sector of the Carrefour de l'Arbre. It is my little trademark, only one "jump" is enough for me to make the difference. Then, I had enough gap with Pieri and Ekimov to concentrate on my sprint, to work out when I would make my move on the velodrome. In fact, my race was perfect."
"When I first became a professional with PDM in 1992, I took part in many Six Day events and I remembered what tactics were required when negotiating a sprint. I was not really afraid of Ekimov even if he is a great rider, I was more wary of the burst of speed that Pieri has, he was second in the Tour of Flandres in 2000. I worked it well, keeping to the balustrade until the last turn and making sure I was not at the front of the three riders."
"I had not been able to ride Milan-San Remo at the end of March because I was sick and my Lotto-Domo team was under great pressure for good results before the beginning of April. I was certainly the leader, that on which everyone counted but only, I would not have done anything without the help of my team. Everyone did an enormous amount of work, in particular the youngster Kevin Van Impe (the nephew of Lucien, victorious in the Tour of France 1976) who sheltered me during the first 100 kilometers. I am leader of the World Cup and I can from now on think of the final classification. It is the broad objective of my season and I will dispute Amstel Gold Race in one week, to try and gain some more points.”
One of the original riders in the first 14 rider break which went after 15 kilometres, Nazon had managed to keep his place in the leading group when they were caught by the race favourites (Van Petegem, Wauters, Tafi, Pieri, Knaven, Vainstens).
Nazon was still looking good in spite of the intense pressure Andrea Tafi was causing by setting a high pace, until pavé section number 6, Moulin de Vertain.
“A photographer's motor bike passed Nardello and me very quickly and then skidded on the gravel. I was right behind, I could not avoid it and went over it. My bicycle was broken. I lost one minute with the breakdown service. It is a pity, I felt super good, this race was the objective of my season. Perhaps I might not have been strong enough to follow Van Petegem until the end but I would have preferred to lose by racing!”
Another unlucky team were FDJeux.com, Jimmy Casper and Matthew Wilson both were eliminated in the big fall before the first pave section 26 (Troisvilles, Km 99,8): 2200 m de pavés (cotation 3), then Bradley Wiggins crashed in Forêt d’Arenberg. Meanwhile Frederic Guesdon was having his own share of misfortune. "I punctured, David Derepas gave me his wheel and Jacky Durand brought back to the front of the peloton, then I fell and I had to make a large effort, tapping into my reserves. I fell again but managed to get to the Museeuw group I thought that sooner or later the Belgian was going to bring us back to the leading group. Museeuw tried once, but it was not enough. I tried on Carrefour de l'Arbre but in reality the war was already lost. I did it for an honourable placing and I died!"
Guesdon can be comforted by noting that he is the best French rider in the World cup (11th) and his team is third.
Don’t worry “Eki” fans, the riders from Russia who is loved world wide will continue to compete next season -
"I will be back next year at Paris Roubaix 2004 before taking my retirement. Today I think I have let a special occasion slip through my fingers."
Team CSC’s Andrea Tafi was extremely motivated and aggressive in this year’s edition of the Paris-Roubaix. On the final kilometres, the Italian set a high pace that decimated the peloton heavily. Tafi looked like a strong contender for the victory, but a puncture on the cobblestones at the Carrefour de L’Arbre meant that he lost contact with the front group.
”I had the legs but not the luck. I was very motivated and I have seldom felt so much on top of the situation in a Paris-Roubaix. My 5th place does not quite do justice to my performance, however, it was plain for everyone to see that I was one of the best riders today. This is my race and I am of course very disappointed that I was unable to finish the job for myself and the team who really put their hearts in today’s effort”, said Andrea Tafi when the dust had finally settled after a tough Paris-Roubaix.
The cobblestone section at the Carrefour de L’Arbre turned out to be the key point in the 101st edition of the race. It was here that Lotto’s Peter van Petegem entered the scene and positioned himself for the victory. Last weeks winner of the Tour of Flanders outclassed his two companions, Dario Pieri (Saeco) and Vlatcheslav Ekimov (US Postal), in the sprint on the velodrome in Roubaix.
”Tafi did a great Paris-Roubaix. He has reason to be proud of his performance. I am proud of his will to fight and the motivation that lay behind. The team supported him well when he needed it the most. After the first six pavées, we still had eight riders in the race. In the finale it was each man for himself and that is where Tafi came into his own. His puncture was very badly timed but that is the way it is in a race like this”, said Bjarne Riis after the race.
Tristan Hoffman finished 21st. (CSC WEBSITE)
“We need to be honest, we hadn’t expected to be on the podium here. This third place by Eki makes us very happy", we hear. "That our Russian was good, we knew for a while already, but that he would be that strong, is a surprise. After the ‘Ronde van Vlaanderen’ he already told me on Sunday evening that he would do better in Roubaix, provided it did not rain (Eki finished eighth in the ‘Ronde van Vlaanderen’)."
"Bad luck started with Cruz, who took part in an early breakaway. He got a puncture and fell when he tried to regain his place up front", Dirk Demol explains. "When we had Benoit Joachim in a chase group, he fell in the ‘Bois de Wallers’, while Eki twice had a flat, just after the peloton had crossed this famous strip of cobblestones. Here, Peña had to help him on by giving him one of his wheels. Very unfortunate was when we had two riders in a leading group of twelve and Max van Heeswijk fell over Ivanov, in this fall breaking his bike. He had fallen earlier, 10 kms before the first strip of cobblestones, and then Padrnos, Kjaergaard and Mikhailov had had to bring him back. This second fall came at a bad time, suppose we could have taken on the final with two riders? I’m sure we would have got more than ‘just’ a third place in that case…" (US Postal Website)