By Paul Verkuylen
The training accident on Friday which saw Rabobank's Michael Boogerd rushed to hospital could see the Dutchman miss his own farewell at this weekend's Giro di Lombardia, with doctors requiring Boogerd to stay under their care for at least one more day, but Boogerd is nonetheless determined to make the start. Boogerd remains in hospital unable to place any pressure on his left knee, from which doctors drained a fluid build up following a bacterial infection, which has put a question mark over his participation in this weekend's event and all but ended Boogerd's hopes of taking a final victory at one of his favourite races.
"I hope that it feels better soon when I walk on it," Boogerd told HLN.be from his hospital bed in Amersfoort. "I am on morphine at the moment and that works great, but when I am no longer on that, it will be another story."
Interim team manager Henri van der Aat added that they will try and get Boogerd to the start line if possible, but any chance of a final victory has been dashed. "Tuesday we will see if the antibiotics are working," van der Aat told De Telegraaf after visiting the rider in the hospital. "If it is at all possible, he will start. But it is too bad - Michael wanted to ride to win. That is no longer certain. It seems to me impossible under the circumstances that he could master the course."
Throughout his career Boogerd has been one of the finest classics specialist of his generation. Although he was seldom able to claim the top podium spot, Boogerd's presence in the leading break of any classic was always feared. Since 1998, when he was beaten to the Giro di Lombardia's line by the newly crowned world champion Oscar Camenzind, he has finished in the top 10 of the 'race of the falling leaves' no less than six times, twice second and once third.
After a fine season this year, which has seen Boogerd finish in the top 10 at Ronde van Vlaanderen, Tirreno-Adriatico, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Amstel Gold Race and Stage 18 of the Tour de France, Boogerd has decided to end his career while still competitive. "I want to avoid the moment where I have to learn to deal with dissatisfying results," he said.
After a strong performance at the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany last month, where he finished 11th, Boogerd decided that his final race would be Lombardia. Up until Friday's accident Boogerd would have been considered a threat for this weekend's race, but fate has dealt the popular Dutch rider another hand. Determine to be on the start this Saturday, Boogerd has told the press "even if I only ride three kilometres, I will see it as a present from God."
"I would really like to pin a number on my back one last time, and I want it to be in Lombardia," Boogerd said.
If Boogerd makes Saturday's farewell in Valkenberg, the site of one of his most memorable win in the 1999 Amstel Gold race, the Dutchman with the wide grin and super white teeth will surely be congratulated by each and every one of his fellow competitors on a stellar career.
Susan Westemeyer contributing.