The start at the World Championships Elite Mens Road Race. Photo
by Jeff Tse.
Click for larger image
A night out and the following short rest didnít bring van
Petegem out of balance: he did not make a mistake in
the last kilometres of the WC, by not chasing after
Astarloa himself. ďThereís wanted and thereís was able to. Those
are two different things. I could have won a group sprint for the title, but the
way it turned out now, bronze was the highest achieveable.Ē
Monday morning, 10.30. While the rest of the Belgian
delegation is visiting the Niagara Falls, Peter Van
Petegem sits himself down in a comfortable chair in the Visitorís Inn hotel. The
WC is over for the West-Flemish rider, the film of the last 17 hours is only
played back when specifically asked for. Quite a few people are trying to talk
the leader of the Belgian team into a feeling of guilt by now...remarks like
that he ďdidnít give it all he gotĒ or ďdidnít risk enoughĒ. The manner in which
he shrugged his shoulders says it all, it all just slides off the ďZwarte from
ďPeople like Eddy Merckx had the ability to dynamite the
race several times, I have to pick my moments with care. Everybody is entitled
to an opinion about this, but the only one that really matters in the end is my
own. And that of Johan Museeuw, a rider like me. I havenít spoken him yet, but
Iím sure heíll find that I didnít make any mistakes. I just couldnít do any
better, is that such a disgrace? The first hill suited me, the second one much
less. I was riding a bloc when Astarloa took off, just
like my other 5 companions were. Talking, looking for support from other riders:
it all didnít help much, even more since everything was going so fast.You can
have superb legs and still donít win, that happens more than once in a riderís
career, thereís always an amount of luck involved, and I didnít have much of it
on Sunday. If it would have turned out in a sprint, I would have won. But thatís
all talk now. I wonít even be watching the videotape at home anymore. Over is
Van Petegem did win one fight on Sunday: Itís time the
eternal doubts on this manís focus ceased. Heís a master at quietly working
towards a great event, but that quietness is still often mistaken for laziness.
He says that it doesnít get to him; the criticism and mockery he receives when
he finishes a race in the back of the peloton, happily whistling. But itís just
"Doesnít it get through to people that Iím not a Merckx? I
just canít ride good results from February till
October. I ride over 70 races a
year, and the majority of those races are preparational.
When I focus on a certain race Iím almost always showing
myself. Too bad people often seem to forget about that. Take the Tour of Belgium
this year: granted, I wasnít super. But you canít be super if you just had a
10-day break after L-B-L. I got asked questions like 'How
was your vacation?' and 'How
many beers did you have?' during the public
presentation of the race. Thatís just ridiculizing people. And during the stages
I got called bum and tourist. Would they prefer to see me stay away from the
Tour of Belgium next year? I donít care either way. If
people expect me to do well in the races in between, theyíll have to accept the
fact that I wonít be able to play a role of any importance in the Tour of
Flanders. And Iím sure thatís not what people want either.Ē
Head-legs, head-legs, head-legs...Peter Van Petegem
repeats it a few times, to point out that those two things are the only things
that matter when building up a good form. A fine feeling and lots of work paved
the way for his career.
ďOn that matter, I learned one important lesson this year.
The World Cup final ranking, thatís not my cup of tea. The Tour of Flanders and
Paris-Roubaix; those are my kind of races.† Already now I dare say that I will
be battling for victory in those two races next year.
I canít say that about the other classics. And even if I happen to be wearing
the jersey at some point next year, I wonít defend it. Itíll be busy enough as
it is if Iíd compete in the Olympic Road
Race. If I will actually be going to Athens? Letís
wait and see what the course will look like first. I wasnít quite myself on the
WC in Plouay because I didnít combine it well enough
with the Olympic race in Sydney. I donít know if Iíll
have to make a choice next year, but I will say this: the WC is the most
beautiful race a rider like me can win. Iíve been close twice already, and that
only pushes me to work even harder in the future.Ē
The 2003 World Championships Elite Mens Road Race podium:
Alejandro Valverde 2nd, Igor Astarloa 1st, Peter Van Petegem 3rd
Photo by Scott Schaffrick.
Source: Gazet Van Antwerpen.
Thanks to Jan Janssens for the translation.