By Brecht Decaluwé in Knokke
The faces of the Spring Classics have been slowly changing over the past few years, and now the start line of the Tour of Flanders in Brugge will be without another of the hard men of the past decade as Peter Van Petegem has announced that he will retire in two weeks. The Belgian veteran confirmed rumours that have been circulating for weeks when he made the announcement on Friday in Knokke, Belgium.
"My career is due to end this year," Van Petegem confirmed to the gathered press in a quickly organised press conference in hotel La Reserve after stage two of the Eneco-Tour where Van Petegem is taking part in the ProTour event. The Classics specialist will compete in his final race on September 11 at the GP Briek Schotte in Desselgem.
"It wasn't an easy decision, particularly because I'm already retiring after only one year at the Quick.Step - Innergetic team," Van Petegem explained. The 37 year-old Belgian joined the biggest Belgian team last year, but functioned mainly as lieutenant for team leader Tom Boonen in the Spring Classics and never approached the form which made him one of only nine men to in Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders in one year in 2003. Still, he said "I had a super year with Patrick [Lefevere] and I prepared to perfection for the Spring Classics, but I had bad luck in the Tour of Flanders and in Paris-Roubaix there was maybe more possible."
His 16 season-long career may have peaked in the early part of this decade, but Van Petegem denied that poor performances led to his decision. "I'm not retiring because I'm riding bad or because I'm riding with a bad grace. There are many small factors that brought me to my decision, but I'm afraid one more year would be too much," Van Petegem explained, adding that he still enjoys the bike, training and hanging around with the team.
When asked why Van Petegem will retire in that particular 'kermiskoers', Lefevere explained it had to do with a promise he made to Flandrien Briek Schotte. "A few years before he died I promised him that I would keep his race in honour. Richard Virenque already retired there and now Van Petegem and Serge Baguet will do the same," Lefevere explained why the choice to end at the race in Desselgem was made.