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Hoste not keen on becoming new Poulidor

By Brecht Decaluwé

Last year, after finishing second in the Ronde van Vlaanderen for the third time in his career, Hoste promised that he would come back to win the race one day. This year his Silence-Lotto team allowed him to build-up specifically towards the week with the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. Team manager Marc Sergeant was delighted with Hoste's preparation, but then bad luck hit Hoste when he crashed during the first stage of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.

Although Hoste sustained several injuries he continued the Driedaagse and he will definitely start in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. If his injuries don't bother him too much, Leif Hoste could finally claim that much desired win in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. If he finishes as runner-up for the fourth time, then he'll go on as the Poulidor of modern cycling, and become even more popular than he is now.

Cyclingnews listened to what Leif Hoste had to say about his injuries and his aspirations for glory in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, right after the finish of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. Hoste explained that the injuries where annoying, but not dramatic. "With such a crash you can't expect to be without sores, but it is like it is," Hoste said. The Belgian had four days to recover from the crash, of which two days were without racing. "It's not a drama, but it's not ideal when approaching such an important race. Every percentage you lose is one too much. I will not be worrying, because maybe I don't need to worry. It's not that I've broken my collarbone. If it is not going well, then that's bad luck. There's still Paris-Roubaix."

The Belgian's knee looked awful when he crossed the finish line in Zottegem on Tuesday, but Hoste explained that his knee was the least of his concerns. "It's the hidden things - my ribs and my pelvis – that bother me the most. My pelvis isn't twisted [like last year ahead of the Ronde], but still one side is higher than the other because I crashed on my bottom."

The Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde is considered to be a dangerous race, and that's why for example Team CSC didn't line up a team in the Belgian three-day event. "I've raced the Driedaagse more than once. If I shouldn't be racing there, then I shouldn't be riding in Tirreno-Adriatico or Milano-Sanremo either. Hopefully it will turn out well for Sunday. It has gotten better a lot already, so I'm hopeful it'll be alright."

Hoste considers the favourites to be the same like last year, but he added one particular name to the list. "Some riders are better now, like Cancellara. I'm a little better as well, but with that crash I need to await the race. Then there's Manuel Quinziato who came close for the victory in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. He has become stronger, and he has a good team. That's why we need to take him into account for the Ronde. The amount of kilometres shouldn't be a problem for him, he can deal with that," Hoste said.

In comparison to the Liquigas team, Hoste talked about the Silence-Lotto line-up [without Robbie McEwen]. "Our team is very strong breadth-wise. I don't expect to have five men along my side with 50km to go. Everybody who's in the team is expected to be worthy of the spot. Top my opinion CSC has the strongest block. You can't disregard what they've accomplished recently," Hoste said.

The 30-year-old Spring Classics specialist doesn't like to be compared with Belgian's big star, Tom Boonen. Nevertheless he is grateful that because of Boonen he isn't recognized on the streets."He takes away a lot of media attention, but I don't mind about that. I'm happy that I can walk around in the supermarket without being recognized. Thanks for that, Tom," Hoste said.

When a journalist asked if Hoste had noticed that Boonen had been pulling in front of the peloton during the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, Hoste reacted irritatably. "What Tom did in the Driedaagse isn't my concern. Actually, I don't know if you noticed that I've delivered Robbie [McEwen] at the last kilometre," Hoste sneered back to the journalist who posed the question.