Van Petegem has a feeling

Peter Van Petegem has told Belgian press that he thought he will be a major contender in the...

Peter Van Petegem has told Belgian press that he thought he will be a major contender in the upcoming Ronde van Vlaanderen, which he has already won twice. "I have a feeling that I will be part of those riding for victory," he said, surely knowing how to play his cards right. "To win the Ronde, you have to watch carefully and have the legs. You have to make the right decisions at the right moments. Tom Boonen is the top favourite, just as I have been before - but that doesn't make you win in Meerbeke," he explained, hinting that Boonen might not have the experience required for the Flemish Classic. "Tom Boonen is the fastest of the big bunch of favourites. So I have to get rid of him, like Frank Vandenbroucke tried with me two years ago," he added.

Van Petegem has been fighting a cold with antibiotics these last few days, but as his main rival Tom Boonen said: "De Peet only needs to be at 75 percent for Flanders, all the rest has to be at 110 percent to win."

"On Wednesday morning I started feeling some discomfort," Van Petegem said, "but the long day in the saddle training was something I needed. My preparation is done, I'll start on Sunday with the feeling that I'll be able to win. I'm going to Brugge with a very strong Davitamon-Lotto team. It's nice to see how enthusiastically they are fighting to be part of things. It's like a soccer team.

"It will be a battle between us, Quick.Step-Innergetic, T-Mobile, Rabobank and Discovery Channel-Berry Floor. T-Mobile is still after its first win, and with Wesemann and Klier they have the capabilities; with Zabel and Aldag the experience. I don't like to pinpoint names," he continued. Asked where he thought the decisive moment of the race would occur, he replied, "I don't know, it could be anywhere. The Ronde really starts in Waregem (km 85). Before that you should be in the back, but you can't be sleeping! There are two sections in this race: the first crucial phase begins with the Oude Kwaremont after 172 km, the Paterberg and the Koppenberg. Then there's the sector with the Berendries (km 219), the Valkenberg and Brakel [his hometown]. Riding through Brakel starts the last phase of the Ronde, as it's only 30 km before the finish."

Unfortunately, Van Petegem's family has suffered a loss on Saturday, as one of his father's friends, Cees Uijtdewillegen, died. "If I win, it will be for Cees," Van Petegem said. "He only was sixty years old, a good friend of my Dad that followed me everywhere. This is really getting to me." A third victory for "De Peet" in Meerbeke would equal the record of Johan Museeuw, who has won the race three times (1993, 1995, 1998).

"I would like to keep riding until the end of 2007," Van Petegem said. "That is if my wife Angelique is OK with that. I still feel like a young cyclist, and it's a nice life. I would immediately make the decision to stop if I'd notice that I'm not on top of things in my races. But since Harelbeke I've got the feeling that I'm ready."

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