Belgian World's angst continues

Lefevere: "Boonen with publicity for Davitamon, that is not possible?!"

The cold war between Patrick Lefevere and José De Cauwer is heating up. The QuickStep manager does not understand how the Belgian Cycling Federation accepted sponsorship from Davitamon, while this company is already sponsoring the other Belgian ProTour cycling team.

"I have no problem with De Cauwer being in charge of my riders for one day," Lefevere said, blowing off steam in the VUM newspapers. "But I do struggle with them saying that the selected riders ought to be happy that they are allowed to be here! Allowed? No! they sell my riders to their sponsors! Just like that, for free. I don't think it's normal that Tom Boonen will be riding with publicity for our competition (Davitamon) on his shirt on Sunday. I would love to cut that out."

When the selection for the World's was made, Lefevere already had mentioned that Davitamon's sponsorship with the Belgian Federation influenced De Cauwer's choice. "De Cauwer maintains that it didn't," Lefevere reacted. "But I don't believe one bit of that! They never asked us to sponsor the federation. What did the Belgian Cycling Federation do at the moment we were tied into a court case with Davitamon and a claim of €24 million was made? Help? Try to mediate? Get out, they made one of the parties their own sponsor. That really bothers me still. When I see Marc Coucke around here, I'll certainly shake his hand, but I haven't forgotten what happened. I would really grant Peter Van Petegem the rainbow jersey, but I wouldn't be cheering if he won.

"A World Championships, you ride with wit, your eyes and your wallet," said Lefevere, calling a spade a spade as usual. "Avoid making mistakes, read the race right and when push comes to shove, look for allies, no matter what jersey they wear. In those last five kilometres, not earlier. Only then, the puzzle will fit.

"If Tom Boonen wins, I'll jump for joy, what did you think maybe? Without forgetting that a rainbow jersey can be a poisoned gift for someone still to turn 25. Johan Museeuw was 31 when he became world champion in Lugano. Even then, he started the next season more nervous than other years. Johan rode well in the spring but the super-freshness was gone. What good will Tom be able to do if he becomes World Champion at the end of this kind of season? I'm holding my breath.

"I absolutely believe in it though. Especially how the head will be is most important. The form? Sometimes Tom can look like everything but fresh. It doesn't mean a thing. He arrived in the Vuelta and he needed a car-jack to open his eyes. I feared he'd be back home on the next plane. A few days later, he was pedaling fresh as a daisy over the mountains. He recuperates on the bike."

Lefevere values the rainbow jersey, though. "It's the most beautiful jersey. We don't get judged on how many wins we have in a season, but on the quality of them. Rather one dinner in a class restaurant than three times fish and chips. Although I like chips (laughs)."

Boonen doesn't like the course

Tom Boonen is not too enthusiastic about the World Championship parcours in Madrid. "I saw that U-turn that's 600 metres before the finish," Boonen told Het Nieuwsblad. "You can write that down: accidents are bound to happen there. It's totally unwarranted. The rider who brakes last, will be first out of that corner. We'll be speeding towards it with a speed of up to 80km/h. Everyone sitting in the front at that moment will think he'll become World Champion. This is totally irresponsible, but there's a lot of things like that happening in cycling. After the worst happens, a lot of bickering will go on, lots of comments given, but it all will be too late again by then."

The first training with the National Team wasn't something which made him any happier. "It's not possible here. We even ended up on the freeway!"

After one hour in the evening traffic, the Belgian team was back at their hotel. "Every 300 metres a roundabout. Very dangerous situations. That's always the case though when the World's are held in a metropolitan city. I will be relieved when it's Sunday. Although I was very happy to finally leave for Madrid this morning. My preparation is done. Though I'm not as confident about my form as I was before the Tour of Flanders. This race is too close to that heavy crash I had in the Tour. But I do have the feeling that I'm ready for it."

Aerts wants to get lucky

"Hopefully I don't have to work," Belgian Mario Aerts expresses his feelings about the World Championships to Het Nieuwsblad. "Of course I've already had secret dreams about being on the top podium. Everyone starting on Sunday has those. I'm sure of that. I should only get that lucky that I'm in the right break and I don't have to work."

Although Mario Aerts was told his job by José De Cauwer during the first meeting at the hotel in Madrid yesterday, he realises he'll be working for "a rival" and it's not an easy thing. "I'll do what the national coach demands of me. I'm very happy to be here. This is the crown on the hard comeback season. It could be that I have to go into a big break in the first half of the race, or labour at the front. As a Davitamon-Lotto rider I don't have a problem with riding for Tom, he's a good friend of mine. But it still is bizarre. The whole season you ride against one another and then you're helping an adversary to get the World Title.

"When I work to get Tom in the position that he'll be sprinting for the rainbow jersey, in fact I will have worked for McEwen too. That system with national teams is so out of date in a time of ProTour teams and big budgets. The UCI could have let all the ProTour teams start. Then it was up to the team directors to select their nine best riders and the best ProTour rider would be the best World Champion."

Courtesy of Sabine Sunderland

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