In a lengthy interview with journalist Rik Van Welden from Het Nieuwsblad a seemingly relaxed Peter Van Petegem (35) makes clear that he is ready for the win on Sunday. "For my family, the sporting successes I've had are plenty," Van Petegem said. "My wife Angelique told me she really would like to experience another big win though, we'll take it as it comes."
There was a lot of criticism at his address because he didn't compete in Gent-Wevelgem, while 'Tom Van Vlaanderen' did. But 'de zwarte van Brakel' is keeping his cool: "Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit but next Sunday, Gent-Wevelgem will be forgotten about already. In January-February we won ten, fifteen races; bit things didn't work out in the Omloop and Kuurne and immediately those are forgotten. And later in this spring it will start all over again in case we don't win a stage in the Giro. You see, there's always stress. With someone like [Davitamon boss Marc] Coucke it never eases."
"Of course there was relief last Wednesday, we waited a long time for that first big win; but the way the team was riding, it had to happen soon. I was especially happy for Nico, it is his race, he really lived toward that moment. This year he has been performing really well, even though the team management didn't want to take him seriously, they left him out of the selection for some of the spring races. Luckily he had a lot of support from the riders, myself included.
"If he had had a bad winter, that would have been a reason not to select him. If they would do something like that to some other riders they would have reacted differently and have given it away. It started with his contract; he was the last one to get things agreed on. The way Nico answered on the bike is a sign of big class I reckon."
Last year, Van Petegem saw the victory on the velodrome in Roubaix slip through his fingers because of bad luck. "When I punctured, I didn't know how strong I really was yet," he said. "That realisation only came later. I knew that things were about 90 percent lost but started chasing anyway. I saw how I rode from one group to the next, at that moment I could tell how fast I was really going. I felt it. It was a great sensation at that moment, but it was less uplifting when I got to the big group at the end of the Carrefour de L'Arbre and everyone was knackered; they couldn't go any faster.
"If not too much goes wrong, I should be competing for the win again. The last two years I didn't ride Gent-Wevelgem and I had my best results in the Hel. Of course there's always people who don't think it's a good idea not to ride. I know that Tchmil didn't ride Gent-Wevelgem but went training for six hours. That's what I did. It is not because you're not racing that you are not at work on the bike. It is a dangerous race, look how many crashes there were again. I prefer crashing in Paris-Roubaix than to have to miss out on riding it that way."
After Paris-Roubaix, Van Petegem will ride the Amstel Gold Race and possibly Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but the latter only in the service of his teammates. "My next goal is the Belgian Championships. The parcours suits me and I want to be good there," he finished.