By James Cavell
Michael Boogerd is surprised at how quiet things have been since he announced his upcoming retirement. "This may be down to having a new mobile phone number," mused the Dutchman, "but it is also the busiest time of the season, and perhaps everyone understands how busy I am." In his latest column for Dutch newspaper de Telegraaf, he thanked the Dutch public for their "heart-warming" show of support for him at the Amstel Gold Race.
'Boogie' found his last attempt at the famed Dutch race a strange affair. "I realised I was riding up the Cauberg for the last time in race conditions, and I felt quite emotional, which was strange in the middle of a race!"
This week, there has been one thought in Boogerd's mind: "How can I win Liège-Bastogne-Liège?" He explained that he did really well to locate himself in the elite group in Amstel, but "it was a shame that none of my team-mates made it to the break." However, Boogerd was realistic, "going with such great riders is not that simple."
He didn't spare his team-mates from complete criticism. "It really bothered me that there was no one up with Wesemann and Voigt," and then "they made the same mistake 30 kilometres from the finish", when a group of seventeen containing Rogers and Gilbert went up the road. "To miss a move like that isn't due to fatigue, it's down to not paying attention," lamented 'Boogie.' "I hope we will ride more attentively in Liège."
Indeed for La Doyenne Boogerd demands the full support of his team. He remembered the fantastic work done for him by Erik Dekker last year - "riding up la Redoute I didn't have to work any harder than necessary. That was a great feeling."
He gave further clarity on how he views his team-mates. "I want their unconditional support," he declared. "Some of them might think of riding for themselves, because Boogerd only ever comes second or third. I can understand that, but they should be up front and say that."
The popular Dutchman sees La Doyenne as his major goal for his swan song season. In considering his chances for victory, he reminisced over past editions.
"In 2003 when I attacked on the Côte de St. Nicholas, only Hamilton and Mayo could pull me back," he said proudly. "If I hadn't gotten dehydrated I would have won." In 2004 he hoped Rebellin would crack, but the tough Italian held on for glory. More recently he has excelled but just fallen short of the victory. "Last year, I chose to attack early," he continued, "and when they pulled me back on the Côte de St. Nicholas I was still able to stay with the best riders."
Boogerd is convinced that the right tactic is not made in advance but is dictated by how the race develops. He was certain about one fact though, "Guys like Rebellin, Di Luca and Bettini will be there at the finish."