There are few complaints that Tom Boonen was the justified winner of Flanders, but plenty of grumble
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No one doubted that Tom Boonen was the justified winner of yesterday’s Tour of Flanders, but a number of riders and team managers voiced unhappiness after the race about the way the race had unfolded and the alleged effect outside influences may have had.
There were several complaints about the pile-up on the Koppenberg, caused when Juan Antonio Flecha fell, inadvertently causing a delay to all but the first few riders, including Boonen, who immediately went on the attack. Lampre’s Alessandro Ballan, who eventually finished fifth, said: “I managed to get back up to the leaders, but I never really recovered from that.”
Francaise des Jeux team boss Marc Madiot explained that there is a place in the race for the controversial Koppenberg, which is both very steep and very narrow, but perhaps not as early as fifth in of the 17 climbs. His team leader, Bernhard Eisel, “lost all his chances there and the team with it. I don’t know whether it really changed anything, but I think that it should be moved further into the race when the selection has already been made.”
There were complaints too about the alleged assistance the press motorbikes appeared to give home hero Boonen and compatriot Leif Hoste when they made what proved to be the winning break on the Valkenberg. CSC’s Karsten Kroon was the closest to making the junction to the pair, and his team-mate Fabian Cancellara, who came home in sixth place, said the bikes seemed to make a difference.
“For a long time the gap stayed at 10 or 15 seconds, then, in the space of two kilometres, they gained a minute,” said the Swiss. It’s a shame for cycling and for my team-mate Kroon because without them he would have got back up to the leaders.”
Lampre team boss Giuseppe Saronni was also upset. “We’re always asked to me more professional, but bad habits persist, and it appears that prejudice has been shown to Boonen.” And this only a couple of days before Ghent-Wevelgem, which last year ended in controversy when local rider Nico Mattan was ‘helped’ back up to lone leader Flecha in the closing few hundred metres.
– Roberto Heras suffered a significant blow in his attempt to overturn his recent ban for use of the blood-booster EPO when the Supreme Court of Castilla-Leon announced that the ex-Liberty Seguros rider should appeal to the Spanish Commission for Sporting Discipline rather than to the civil courts. Heras’s legal team are now considering their next step as they continue to seek the overturning of the Spaniard’s two-year ban.