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Usually they let their legs do most of the talking, but since shortly before the Tour of Flanders a war on words seems to have broken out between Tom Boonen and Alessandro Petacchi, writes Susanne Horsdal. The spat apparently began when in a pre-Tour-of-Flanders press conference Boonen was asked what he thought of Petacchi's chances of winning the race and answered: "They're non-existent."
Apparently that honesty didn't go down too well with the Italian, who in Wednesday's Belgian papers said of Boonen: "In races in Flanders and probably also in Paris-Roubaix he's the strongest. He has no rivals. But I don't really want to talk about Boonen. I don't want to do the same as him. He should stop judging other riders. I don't like the comments he's been making about me. In the last three years I'm the pro rider with the most victories. I never comment on the competitors, I respect them. Boonen doesn't. He talks like an old sports director."
Elsewhere in the Belgian press, Boonen was quoted for saying about Petacchi: "He's the fastest sprinter in the world - together with me. If we decide it in a sprint it'll probably end 6-4 in his favour. But that's also the only weapon he has. Listen, Flemish races are not like stage races where you can be taken to the finish line by your team-mates. In Flanders you have to do it on your own."
But shortly before the start of Ghent-Wevelgem, Boonen decided to try to diffuse the spat. "There's been some things in the Belgian press, but I really respect Alessandro, and I will also go and tell him that," said the world champion. We await the next instalment with interest.
- Oscar Freire may be on his way to Spanish Saunier Duval team. According to Dutch paper De Telegraaf, the triple world champion, whose contract with Rabobank runs out at the end of this season, has been offered a million-euro contract by Saunier Duval. "Oscar and I have been good friends for years and the interest is mutual," says sports director Joxean Fernandez, who wants to strengthen his team for the spring Classics.
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