After winning bronze in Hamilton two years ago, and silver in Valkenburg seven years ago, Peter Van Petegem knows that the only thing lacking in his palmares is a world title. But the classics star is riding tomorrow's race in Madrid in full service of his team leader Tom Boonen.
"I'm good at solving puzzles, but the pieces of this one will have to really fall into place for me. Madrid will be a mass sprint, or a sprint of a big group at least," he said in HNB. "We are going for a mass sprint and that's it. Belgium has chosen the card of top sprinter Tom Boonen, and thus it's not up to me to attack. I don't believe that the top sprinters like Boonen, Petacchi, Zabel, McEwen and even Van Heeswijk or Hushovd won't be able to hang on. This is not a 'shitty parcours' for a mass sprint, on the contrary, it's magnificent. Who will have to let go? Every lap it's twenty kilometres of riding hard. The peloton will go fast. The last sixty kilometres the sprinters will start smelling their chance. That's where we do have the advantage of such a big talent in our team. Spain, without Freire, will be forced to race.
"The only way for me to become world champion is riding à la Museeuw in Lugano. The whole day in last position in a group, give the impression now and again that you working with them, but dose your efforts well. Then it happens in the last lap. A World Championship is something you ride with the head. I have only got a chance if the race is on from the word go. On the last hill you can give it a good kick, but there's a descent after that.
"I'm a rider for the Omloop Het Volk, Harelbeke, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Parijs-Roubaix and the World Championships. Tom Boonen will grow to fit that profile in time too. You can't keep giving everything all season, year after year. The race for the rainbow jersey can be ridden in December if you ask me: if I'm not sick, I'm always good then. I'm the type of rider for a one-day classic, six, seven hours long. I was there this year in the Tour of Flanders, but then I crashed badly in the Hell. Even if I won a couple of stages in, let's say the Eneco Tour, people would still be critical about my season.
"There's changes made to that last U-turn but the risk for crashes remains the same. I expect us to go towards that turn with a speed of 90 km per hour. That is the real problem. There's guys going to think: ah well, this might as well be my last day, there's a rainbow jersey waiting. He who comes first out of the corner will be beaten. There might be a correction possible for Tom, but the question is how many fellow countrymen will still be together at that point. Lisbon's parcours was that much harder and it became a mass sprint too. I think on this parcours and in Salzburg in 2006 the sprinters will have the reign for two years."