Van Petegem handling the stress well

"The opposition? Doesn't worry me"

It's that time of the year again; "March has showers and April its moods" as the Flemish saying goes. And the Belgian press is hot and cold too. With the classics warming up the atmosphere in Belgian cycling, and some doping scandal thrown in to spice things up some more, there's one guy who again seems to have all eyes on him in the coming weeks.

Peter Van Petegem has got used to the critical remarks the Belgian press and cycling fans direct at his address for some years now. But even though the "Zwarte van Brakel" seems to be untouched by the buckets of remarks poured over his head, he's raising his voice more than previous seasons. "It's always so that people make up my bill before my races are ridden; they decide wether I'm going well or not" he remarked in HNB. "Apparently I'm a much desired object to pull to pieces."

"The Omloop Het Volk was ridden a month ago almost. The Monday after I went training as usual, without worrying, without doubting, without dwelling on it. I've been doing this job for 15 years and always have made sure that I was ready for my period of races. I have an agenda with my appointments and I'm planning on keeping them. The opposition? Doesn't worry me. I can see for myself that Boonen is on the right track. A rider who's in good shape plays with the pedals."

"Nowadays, nobody lets things lie [meaning every race is important - ed.]. Neither will I. I'm stressing that my preparation was perfect. Now it's a matter of being good and have things go my way. I say that the winners are separated from the losers only after Roubaix. To give critical remarks now is all but too easy. And whoever claims I'm only racing one week per year can come around to my place. I call those remarks stupid."

Sponsor Marc Coucke has expressed his concern about the lack of performances by Van Petegem earlier this week, saying a lack of results would have its consequences for Van Petegem. "But if I don't win, will he sack me?" Van Petegem raised the question in HLN. "Last year, I finished third in the RVV. That wasn't bad, was it? Ask every professional cyclist in Belgium: they would sign [me] immediately for a season with a third placing in the Tour of Flanders. But apparently that's not enough from me.

"Not one team has the sponsor on the riders' heels like in this team. Take Quick.Step for example: Lefevere is the boss and the sponsors don't mingle in the races. Coucke is so driven, he wants to get as much out of his investment as out of his business. The team is a second job for him. It's like we have to score every day.

"Ronde winners have got a strong head. And my head won't break that easily; even if I get loads of critique. If you can't handle the stress to perform in the two weeks between E3 Prijs and Paris-Roubaix, you have to stop racing. But I can still handle it. I'm not even thinking about calling it quits. All I do know is that it will be a hard day for me, as I have been enjoying racing for 15 years already."

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