By Brecht Decaluwé in Valkenburg, Netherlands
Today's third place for Michael Boogerd was his seventh podium finish and ninth top-ten finish in his nation's most important race. "I was surprised that Freire wasn't there in the leading group because he was very good in the Vuelta a Pais Vasco; Valverde also rode strong over there and he wasn't in the lead, either," he said. "Apparently, the racing style here is a bit different. It was a strange race for me because I was a little trapped in team tactics."
Some journalists questioned the Rabobank tactics again, but Boogerd responded by saying: "The others teams just don't take their responsibility. We can't allow the early break an advantage of 15 minutes, because then you're in major trouble. If you think you have a possible winner in your team, you should take your responsibility and offer maybe one man in the chase group."
Asked if he could have adopted a different strategy by trying to catch Schleck instead of waiting for Freire, Boogerd said: "Ah, there will always be some critic if you don't win. It is true, I didn't study at the university, but I'm not stupid. I'm not Eddy Merckx, so I can't react on every attack. If you look around and you see three T-Mobile riders and Paolo Bettini, then I know I'd better spare some energy; if I would've chased Schleck and lost the sprint against Bettini, the crowd would probably put me in oil and feathers. I hoped the others would come back and maybe Freire still had a good sprint in his legs. My gamble was that T-Mobile would chase Schleck back - they didn't.
The always-smiling Dutchman said his feet are still a little sore after breaking his toe earlier in the season, but it certainly isn't holding him back going uphill. "Sitting on the bike is just not comfortable these days. My foot is not flexible; that makes it impossible to make a full acceleration at the foot of a hill. When the tempo has risen, I can do what I want.
"It pleased me that I could follow Bettini on the Fromberg. On the Keutenberg, nobody could follow me; at that moment, I felt that I was the strongest rider uphill. Then Schleck took some advantage and we never saw him again.
However, Rabobank led the peloton the whole day long, and this probably had an influence on the team's results. "It didn't feel that bad, not for me, that is," said Boogerd. "Until the Geulhemmerberg, I didn't have to do anything, as the race is actually just starting over there [after 175km, with 75km to go - ed.]. Sadly, we missed out in most of the breakaways so we had to offer both our Dekkers [to chase, Thomas and Erik]. Thomas Dekker was riding really strong because despite doing all that work, he still survived in the finale until the Eyserbosweg."
However, 'Boogie' has another chance next Sunday in Liège-Bastogne-Liège: "I hope to be just as good as today. Every year is different; sometimes I'm better in Liège, the other year I'm stronger in Valkenburg. I'll try to recover from this race now with a long training ride on Wednesday. Afterwards, I'll take as much rest as possible to be fresh at the start in Liège. My main goal will be to make the difference uphill, making it possible to ride without headaches concerning team tactics. The main advantage in Liège is that the race is less nervous. It's also good for me to see that Paolo Bettini is riding well - he's always in for an attack, trying to shape the race," he said.
Added Boogerd: "We can also play the card of Thomas Dekker; if he gets in an early break, that could result in having an extra team-mate in the finale."