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Echoes

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Echoes' Cycling Biography #5: Frans Maassen
« on: October 15, 2013, 16:24 »
Acknowledgment

The author wishes to thank Dim for the info on the Lobley Hill Road/Marley Hill, main climb of the 1989 Wincanton Classic

Early years

Frans Maassen was born on January 27 1965 in Haelen, Dutch Limburg (Hale in the local dialect). He speaks alternatively Dutch or Limburgs dialect with friends. He chose the life of a professional cyclist above Law studies. In the mid-eighties cyclists were rather middle-class, luxury Flandrians, said Planckaert.

Maassen showed very quickly he had talent for Ardennes types of races but he had his limits. He was never a Van Hooydonck. Dutch media would often hype him but as he told the Volkskrant on his retirement: “I very quickly said that I had my limits. They wanted to make a top guy out of me and I was that to a certain level too but I had my weaknesses. I am happy about everything, yes perhaps too quickly happy.” http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2844/Archief/archief/article/detail/406448/1995/12/09/Uitbollen-bestaat-niet.dhtml

His results as an amateur include a second place at the prestigious 1985 Tryptique ardennais to Peter Harings, winning one stage, a second place at the climb time trial of Camerig-Vaals (around the middle part of the present-day Amstel route) to no other than Erik Breukink but his most promising result might be his 2nd place to experienced pro Duclos-Lassalle in 1986 (48” behind), while a trainee for Kwantum. He kept teammates Jelle Nijdam (3rd), and good old Joop Zoetemelk (4th), one second behind him. Norwegian Dag-Otto Lauritzen was 6th, 1’13” behind Duclos. At the prologue – 3.3km in the streets of Göteborg – Maassen finished 4th, 9” behind winner Nijdam. 2nd was Lithuanian pursuit specialist Gintautas Umaras ( 6’’ behind Nijdam).

This performance offered him a pro contract for the 1987 season for Raas’s Kwantum, which was now sponsored by Superconfex. His first two pro seasons showed him gradually making progress. He was the type of rider who needed time to mature up. His best performance in 1987 might be his 8th place at the Mediterranean Tour behind top riders like Gerrit Solleveld, Eric Van Lancker, Francesco Moser, Marc Sergeant, Tony Rominger, Robert Millar.

In 1988 he would finally get a notable victory in the Tour of Belgium, then held from August 9 to 14. He beat Eric Van Lancker by 18”, Australia’s Alan Peiper was 3rd 49” behind. Benjamin Van Itterbeeck was 4th, 55” behind (Van Hooydonck’s main rival in the amateur ranks in Belgium). Marc Sergeant was 5th at 1’05” and future arch-rival Maurizio Fondriest was 6th 1’26”. Maassen was beaten by Etienne De Wilde in the prologue in Geel but won the main ITT, 18.5km in the streets of Bruges, 12” ahead of Peiper. Sergeant was 4th 20” behind and Fondriest 10th, 49” behind.
We also saw in the Van Hooydonck bio that he contributed to the Superconfex win in the GP de la Libération in Eindhoven along with Van Hooydonck and Nijdam, among others (http://velorooms.com/index.php?topic=3225.0 )

1989: Breakthrough starting on the Via Aurelia

The 1989 edition of Milan-Sanremo saw the second consecutive of Frenchman Laurent Fignon. This is how he described his win in his book [it’s a personal translation from the original version of Nous étions jeunes et innocents, hence probably differently worded than the official English version]

“In order to thwart all traps I knew that I couldn’t win in the same way [as in 1988]. This time nobody would let me move an ear in the Poggio. So I decided about the place where I would attempt something, between the Cipressa and the Poggio. There and nowhere else. The race unfolded exactly as planned for me. Nothing hurt in the legs, great soft-pedalling. I remained extraordinarily calm and when Dutchman Frans Maassen, recent Tour of Belgium winner, gained a few hundreds of meters over us all, I didn’t even took time to think and ask myself “should I go?”, it was done before thinking. Nobody ever came back. With an approximate 40” lead at the foot of the Poggio, I irremediably accelerated in the hardest part of the climb: Maassen surrendered. How to say… Winning for the second consecutive time such a major classic was so rare !”

Laurent Fignon also showed in his book how hard that classic was. He said his friend Alain Gallopin convinced him it was a race that was taylor-made for him because in order to win it you needed stamina to handle the distance of 290km, coupled with explosiveness to be able to attack on the Poggio or the Cipressa. Gallopin knew that Fignon was very hard to beat in long races and Maassen learned it to his cost that day.

How did it exactly unfold? Before Maassen’s attack, the PDM controlled the race with a very solid pace for their leader Sean Kelly but as a matter of fact they made a tactical blunder because they didn’t have anybody left in the finale. It is now known that PDM had discovered blood transfusion the year before.
Down the descent of the Cipressa Sergeant made a first move, which failed and when caught back, Maassen made his decisive escape – a great surprise said the charismatic Adriano De Zan from the RAI – , later countered Fignon as the latter said in his book. We were still on the Via Aurelia between the Cipressa and the Poggio. This happened 25 years before the addition of the Pompeiana. Still on this famous coastal road two other riders attempted a chase behind the leaders: track rider Silvio Martinello and Guy Nulens but they would get closer than 15”. The ~40-man peloton was 20” behind at the foot of the Poggio. On the first slopes of the legendary climb Argentin (the shadow of his own self at that time) and Anderson dropped among others. Quickly the bunch was reduced to 26 men with Kelly alone from PDM in front well looked after by Fignon’s teammates. Fignon’s attack wasn’t that of an explosive climber. Maassen could keep his wheel for a few hectometers but eventually dropped (Fignon admitted in the post-race interview that he had to attack twice to drop him). However the gap between the two never was that big. The Rai didn’t show Maassen on the top of the climb because in the meantime World Champion Fondriest attacked from the peloton, with Kelly in his wheel. In one turn of the descent the gap between the two can be estimated at 7”, which is a gap that the Frenchman would keep till the end, while at that moment De Zan informs us that the peloton was 34” behind. Fondriest and Kelly are caught in the descent.

Between 1987 and 1992 the finish was set on the Corso Cavaloti, less than a 1km after the Poggio descent due to roadwork on the Via Roma (hoping it one day will again !). Maassen would finish 7” behind Fignon and Adriano Baffi outsprints the peloton 30” behind him. Kelly is 5th. Bauer is 12th. Fondriest is 28th, just before Gilles Delion. Sean Yates is the last of that first bunch at the 37th place.

The performance by Laurent Fignon is astonishing when you think that he NEITHER raced Paris-Nice NOR Tirreno-Adriatico. Instead he raced two Belgian races (one of them being the Omloop van Vlaamse Ardennen 6 days before, a single-day race that later become a stage race: Tour of West-Flanders). Maassen did prepare for it on Tirreno that he finished 38th.

1989: Cycling Revolution

From 1959 to 1987 (the year Maassen turned pro) the reference to establish a hierarchy among riders every year was the Superprestige Pernod ranking, which included most of the biggest classics and stage races of the calendar. Pernod was a French liquor brand and obviously the ranking favored the French races. In 1984 the professional section of the UCI, the FICP newly presided by Hein Verbruggen, made up their own ranking, some sort of an ATP ranking equivalent. On July 31 1987 a law by the French government (Chirac) meant alcohol drinks could no longer be associated to sporting events in France and the Superprestige Pernod stopped. Only the FICP ranking remained (renamed UCI ranking in 1992: with the fall of the Soviet Union, the split between FICP and FIAC - amateur section - no longer had any meaning).

In 1989 Verbruggen’s FICP also decided to create a World Cup of every great one-day classics (with French water Perrier as main sponsor) besides the already existing FICP ranking. The Milan-Sanremo described above was the very first leg of that World Cup.

12 one-day races were included in that challenge (only 10 in later years), which was supposed to globalize the sport, and to open new markets in order to make money – the dream for a former sales manager in an American chocolate company like Verbruggen was (see the Monseré biography).

In the late eighties the UCI gained more and more authority. They were in charge of the ruling at every race, instead of the national federations. For the World Cup the UCI also added a measure that forced the race organizations to welcome the 18 best teams of the FICP ranking, which means that in the Milan-Sanremo edition described above the small French Fagor team of Roche and Kimmage could not be invited. In 2005 with the Pro Tour, the best teams would form a league of their own, sort of NBA equivalent. There also was a Team World Cup Ranking. This means that from then on domestiques would have to fight for each and every FICP/UCI points. This didn’t please every rider.

Frans Maassen said about that (to the Volkskrant, December 9 1995: op. cit.): “My idea about cycling as a sport did die out. Since they’re working with these UCI points, races are no longer attractive anymore. You can’t get anything out of it. You deserve more if you just win the race.”

Fignon thus wore the first World Cup jersey. He called it a “soulless duster of unworthy textile quality.” Fignon does not deny that favouring consistency over the year was a good thing but their choice of which classics were considered major and minor was arbitrary. “The Walloon Arrow (e.g.) went on a slimming course” (that was in 1990: sudden drop from 253km to 208km). “I had nothing against the idea of creating new race but you could not decide straightway that they were great races. The Montreal GP was worth nothing compared to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, […] The FICP points, granted at each race if you finish them, deeply changed the riders’ mentalities, because these points […] were also a passport for the teams in the approach of the greatest races. […] The aim was no longer to win but to gain points. […] Everybody became greedy and calculating.”

The UCI ranking and the World Cup disappeared in 2004, both replaced by the Pro Tour(now World Tour), which is some sort of a reminiscence of the Superprestige in that it include both classics and MANY stage races, but the globalizing madness that started in 1989 continued with the creation of some sort of a league to which only a ‘select’ group of teams belonged (as mentioned above).

July 30 1989: Victory in a British race stamped ‘classic’

The long previous chapter was a good introduction to this one dealing with Maassen’s win in the 236.5km long Wincanton Classic, originally meant to be called Summer International. This race was then a totally new creation. It was raced around Newcastle with the ascent of Lobley Hill. In subsequent years it moved to Brighton (1990 & 1991), Leeds (1992 to 1996) and as last edition a ridiculous circuit in Rochester, before handing on the torch to the Hamburg Classic in Germany, a much more cycling-friendly sport at that time. Eventually cycling always gets back to its roots, the continent.

Belgian newspaper Le Soir called the main climb of the circuit ‘Lobley Hill’, which is probably Marley Hill on the Lobley Hill Road, the foot of which being around Gateshead. It’s about 5.74km with an average gradient 3.5% and a maximum gradient 6%. (See Appendix 1)

National champion Frans Maassen would attack with eight kilometers to go from a solid bunch. His move was a real cat & mouse game with the peloton on a double pursuit distance and at the end of the day he would keep 2” over Fondriest who surprised Kelly in the sprint. The Irishman was reputedly way faster (maybe the Italian made a late attack). “That I am a worthy champion, I’ve now just proved it”, was Maassen’s first reaction. Kelly punched his handlebar in disappointment at the end of the race because when Maassen attacked “nobody else would take up the chase”(http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2507&dat=19890731&id=kxI1AAAAIBAJ&sjid=w6ULAAAAIBAJ&pg=6873,4122858 )

Kelly took the lead from Van Hooydonck in the World Cup and Maassen got to 2nd place. In the final GC Maassen was 4th behind Kelly, Rominger (who started his partnership with Ferrari to win Lombardy) and Sörensen.

1989: racing the Tour of Belgium instead of San Sebastian

In 1989 the Tour of Belgium was also raced in August: 9 to 13, and got the name Torhout-Werchter Classic after the famous rock festival. The Clasica San Sebastian was held on August 12. The Spanish ‘classic’ was a 8 year old race back then but wasn’t seen as a real classic by any top guy, only got stamped ‘classic’ by Verbruggen’s World Cup.

However both Frans Maassen – while 2nd in the World Cup ranking – and Laurent Fignon – while Milan-Sanremo winner – decided to skip that Spanish ‘classic’ and chose to race the Tour of Belgium instead.

As defending champion Maassen started as last in the 7.8km winding prologue in Geel. He wasn’t the favourite for that stage so that when Frenchman Thierry Marie realized he made a better performance than Polish specialist Lech Piasecki, he already saw himself a winner. Huge should have been his surprised when he realized that Maassen lost to him for merely 3 seconds. Piasecki was 3rd 9” behind, followed by Peiper, Museeuw, Sergeant and Fignon. However Sean Yates took the lead with after two in-line stage wins, notably the Ardennes one in Verviers.

During the 20km ITT in Roeselaere Yates suffered a puncture, which benefit Maassen who won the stage with a 4” lead over Museeuw and 9” over Yates. It should be said that the Limburger would probably not have one if the Brit hadn’t punctured but it’s part of the race. Sörensen is 4th, Peiper 5th, Fignon 6th 24” behind and Marie 7th, 26” behind. Marc Sergeant is 10th.

In the GC Maassen got back at barely 1” from the Brit and it would the gap in the final ranking. Then came Museeuw already 25” behind Yates. Alan Peiper was 4th, Sörensen 5th and Sergeant 8th. Fondriest was 11th, just ahead of Fignon.

Note that in that period Sean Yates used the tri-bars, like at the Merckx GP (see Van Hooydonck bio).

1990: Unintentionally putting Chiappucci’s career into orbit

At Stage 1a of the 1990 Tour of France around the Futuroscope amusement park near Poitiers four riders separated themselves from the peloton and built up a 13’ lead, reduced to 10’35 at the finish. They were Steve Bauer, Ronan Pensec, Claudio Chiappucci and … Frans Maassen. Bauer and Pensec could climb and it was very surprising for the peloton to let them take such a huge advantage but it was a semi stage and they had to save energy for the afternoon TTT. Ultimately Pensec and Bauer would not benefit from this escape but a 27-year old Chiappucci who suddenly found himself being a champion.

Maassen however would show some genuine sprinting skills, beating Bauer such a short (136.5km) and flat stage is a performance.

1990: Mr Tour of Belgium

August 1990 showed the last edition of the Tour of Belgium – still called Torhout-Werchter Classic (in order to attract rock music fans to cycling (which seems idealistic) - in the 20th century. It will only resume in 2002. After winning the race in 1988, his first notable win and missing a back-to-back win for merely one second Maassen was keen to make a third consecutive great performance on the Tour. The race still coincide with the San Sebastian World Cup event but this time it will suffer from the competition with the Spanish single-day race and argues Bruno Deblander from Le Soir, a few Spanish stage races (Tours of Galicia and Burgos), which were equally good prep for the Worlds, while in 1988 the Tour of Belgium was considered an imperative to prepare for the Championship (hence the presence of Fignon and Fondriest).

Journalists feared the race would become an all-Belgian affair but Maassen would also get some heavy competition from Ukranian Vladimir Pulnikov (representing the USSR). In the late Perestroika Eastern Europeans had turned pro but the observers of the time probably couldn’t really assess their talent.

In the prologue of Geel (same as in 1988) Maassen defeated Museeuw by 5” and Etienne De Wilde by 10”. Vanderaerden was 5th at 11”. Vladimir Pulnikov finished 17th at that prologue, 21” behind Maassen.

Maassen would keep his jersey through despite the damned time bonuses favouring sprinters and consolidate his lead in the main ITT around Leuven, in which he would keptt everybody at more than 30” but Pulnikov (12”) and Haghedooren (13”) – who died young in ‘weird’ circumstances -, those two switching places in the overall ranking. Eric Vanderaerden is 6th, Alan Peiper is 7th.

1990: Tight win in the Eddy Merckx GP

The Eddy Merckx GP in 1990 was a 57km ITT in the streets of Brussels. It was raced on September 10, a bright sunny day.

At mid-race he was still 17” behind his teammate Nijdam but he finished like a rocket. Frans raced intelligently in the first part, at a high pace but not more but his second half deserved a hat off, says Christophe Meurisse of Le Soir. He overtook Thierry Marie, who started two minutes before and the late Luca Gelfi who even started two minutes earlier. The opposition could only come from his own teammate Nijdam who just lost for … 1 second and 54 hundreds. The race revealed the talents of a Canadian racer named Brian Walton who already made a great performance against the clock in Paris-Nice that year, but he never confirmed his 3rd place here in Brussels.

Sean Yates is 4th (harder to win when everybody uses the tri-bars !). Brian Holm is 5th. Pursuit specialist Dean Woods in 7th. Claude Criquielion is 8th, ahead of Marie. Charly Mottet is only 16th, but Mottet hadn’t recovered yet from a wrist injury, he raced with his hand plastered.

1990: Final FICP ranking

At first sight the 1990 season was worse than the previous one for Maassen, in the major races. His best win was the Flèche brabançonne in spring. Yet his consistency still made him enter the top20 at the FICP ranking: ranked 16th, just ahead of Gilles Delion. He was outside the first 21 in 1989, despite the Wincanton win and the 2nd place at Milan-Sanremo. Bugno was the (dubious?) World #1. Mottet was 3rd. Fondriest was only #20.

(http://archives.lesoir.be/cyclisme_t-19901102-Z038J9.html?queryand=Maassen+FICP&firstHit=0&by=10&when=-2&begYear=1989&begMonth=12&begDay=01&endYear=1991&endMonth=03&endDay=29&sort=datedesc&rub=SPOR&rub2=&pos=2&all=14&nav=1 in French)

1991: Roadwork in Eys

This chapter is an introduction to the next one dealing with Maassen’s greatest win of his career, the 1991 Amstel Gold Race.

The little town of Eys is a historical passage for the Amstel, just outside of it is the Eyserbosweg, which in the 21st century has often been the decider. The Eyserbosweg was probably already climbed in the first edition of the race but then as anonymous climb. The legendary promoter Herman Krott did not classify every climb from the very beginning, so that we don’t exactly know when it was used for the first time.

In 1991 two days before the race the provincial road through Eys was broken out. The local authorities ensured Krott that they leveled the road so that the peloton could ride on it. Unfortunately they let the traffic pass for the two days too, so that you had gravel everywhere.
“It was worse than Paris-Roubaix”, said Herman Krott.

Maassen trained in the area three days before the race and there was nothing special. Nobody in the peloton was informed about that section but Maassen could be seen in front of the bunch at that point considered himself lucky (it seemed though that he was informed), while behind it rained punctures: Argentin, Criquielion or Brian Holm (who was in the lead group at that point). “It was a true rubbish heap”, said Maassen but he made use of it perfectly. (in Dutch: http://www.hardfietsen.nl/nl/cols/1/eijserbosweg/ )

1991: Winning in one’s own backyard

When Michel Wuyts asked him if it was important for a Dutch rider to win Amstel Gold Maassen replied that it was most of all important for a Limburger !

The Amstel Gold Race was by then 25 years old, one of the first races to get itsextra-sport brand sponsor as name but despite the Superprestige status , the very hard route already acknowledged by Merckx and the 5 victories by Raas (hence the nickname Amstel Gold Raas!) it had never been considered a true classic until the creation of the World Cup and the slimming course that non-W.C. classics had to undergo. It’s Verbruggen’s honour to promote cycling in his own country but not at the expense of the others.

At the start of the 1991 edition Dirk De Wolf told Maassen that they would be with the two of them in front for the win. Eventually there was a third man: Maurizio Fondriest.

With a little less than 80km to go Frans Maassen was already in the lead group with Charly Mottet, Moreno Argentin, Raul Alcala, Stephen Hodge, Eric Van Lancker and the then still untalented Giorgio Furlan. That escape didn’t succeed and Maassen would tell Wuyts that he lost a lot of energy in it.

Much later another group escaped with De Wolf, Luc Suykerbuyk, Brian Holm, Michel Vermote and the then still untalented Andrea Tafi !

In the peloton Edwig Van Hooydonck has class enough to transform into a luxury helper for his long-time teammate Frans Maassen. He had just won his second Tour of Flanders, of which Maassen was 5th, in the lead group after the Kapelmuur with him and giving him a precious help. It’s Edwig’s honour to return the favour.

Then the break arrived in the weird section in Eys. A scandal for a World Cup classic, said the Belgian reporter from the BRTN. The Eyserbosweg was just outside of it and De Wolf was alone. Maassen rode in front of the peloton. It was a blessing because the climb was just a few hectometers away and that’s how only he could reply to an attack by Fondriest. Suykerbuyk came back in the valley but would drop on the Cauberg. Another group formed in the chase with among others Marc Madiot, Nico Verhoeven, Dimitri Konyschev, Marc Sergeant and Martial Gayant but caught in the last km.

The sprint was all between Maassen and Fondriest. Guido Reybrouck, co-commentator for the BRTN, saw Maassen’s sprint as irregular He did deviate a little from left to right in the middle of the road. Fondriest raised a hand as a form of protest. He still had enough space left to overtake him but Maassen’s relegation could be a debatable issue. 22 years later that Amstel is still on his palmares, though. Wuyts didn’t even see it fit to ask for Maassen’s opinion on the regularity of the sprint, when interviewing him. Maassen however clearly explained that he feared the Italian’s sprint, which seem to imply that Fondriest really improved his sprint which in his early years was considered a liability.

In the book ‘Wuyts & Smeets : Boeiende verhalen en scherpe opinies over 50 jaar toprenners in België en Nederland’ (by Christophe Vandegoor – Borgerhoff & Lamberigts, 2013), Michel Wuyts brought an anecdote about the final trio that battled it out for the win. In such context it is often so that the winner would pay the breakaway mate for his partnership in making the escape hold through. It’s not fixing. Anybody can win but he’s got to pay the other escapee. So De Wolf asked Maassen: “What can this produce here?” Maassen: “A ton”. With ‘Maurice’ it was harder because he didn’t speak Dutch but De Wolf asked the same to the latter’s sporting director Peter Post: “What can this produce here, Peter?” Post: “A ton.” De Wolf didn’t have a sprint but he still tried to surprise them in the finale. In the end he couldn’t care who would win. Anyway he had his ‘ton’. The famous Raas/Post feud that made everybody laugh outside the Netherlands: the hard Zealander and the proud Amsterdammer (See below).

Teammate from Buckler, Vanderaerden, won the peloton sprint for 5th place. Jelle Nijdam was 9th (3rd Buckler in the top10).

(http://www.sporza.be/cm/sporza/videozone/retro/retro_voorjaarsklassiekers/retro_agr/MV_110414_AGR_1991 in Dutch)

1991: Two ITT wins around Dunkirk

In the Four Days of Dunkirk Frans Maassen showed his ITT skills by winning short ITT in two classic places of the Four Days: Boulogne-sur-Mer and Mount Cassel.

The one in Boulogne was 8.2km and he left Museeuw 4” behind him. Jalabert was 3rd but already at 13”, same time as Ekimov and Thierry Marie is 5th at 16”.

Mount Cassel is traditionally the decider in the Four-Days, though no longer in 2013 but in the nineties, it certainly was. It’s a 1.65km climb with an average 3.2% gradient and a maximum 10%.

That second ITT was 6.8km long. Maassen beat Mottet by 3” and Marie by 4”, Jalabert by 6” and Museeuw by 10”. Stephen Roche was 10th, 18” behind.

But that was the 1st semi-stage of the Saturday, penultimate day. In the in-line race that afternoon (123km: Cassel-Cassel), Charly Mottet capitalized on the Mount Cassel again to take the overall lead from Jalabert, nicely helped by his R.M.O. team. Maassen was 13th of that stage 1’ behind Mottet but in the same time as Museeuw who was 4th. Peter De Clercq was 2nd 40” behind Mottet.

In the overall ranking Maassen was 4th, 24” behind Mottet but only 10” behind Jalabert and 8” behind Museeuw, while those two being sprinters, have grabbed time bonuses, so that we can safely say he was the second strongest rider in the race.

1991: Rankings

Due to his win in the Amstel and his 5th place at the Tour of Flanders, Frans Maassen finished 6th at the World Cup won by Maurizio Fondriest who yet hadn’t won a single leg of it, but his consistency made him a deserved winner.

The joy was complete for the Panasonic because they won the team classification as well, just ahead of rival team Buckler. Yet Buckler won the GP de la Libération – sort of a World TTT equivalent which was already set in Eindhoven. Maassen was one of the driving force behind that win, along with Jelle Nijdam among others. Van Hooydonck was among them but did not finish in the same time as his teammates (see also Van Hooydonck’s bio)

As far as the FICP ranking is concerned, Maassen was ranked #8 on June 18, after his Amstel win and his Dunkirk performances. Let’s remember that it was an ATP-like ranking based on the past 52 weeks. It clearly means that Maassen had his place among the World’s best riders of the moment, though the system was ludicrous, World Cup classics being all equal (Van Hooydonck was only 26th at the time !). Chiappucci was then #1, while less than a year before he was a nobody.
http://archives.lesoir.be/chiappucci-no-1_t-19910619-Z04364.html?queryand=Maassen&firstHit=0&by=10&when=-2&begYear=1991&begMonth=05&begDay=01&endYear=1991&endMonth=06&endDay=30&sort=datedesc&rub=TOUT&pos=2&all=21&nav=1

The year-end ranking showed Bugno again as World #1. Mottet was #6 and Maassen got down to rank #11, just ahead of Fondriest (which shows how arbitrary the World Cup ranking was). Van Hooydonck was #20. http://archives.lesoir.be/automobilisme_t-19911106-Z04LX3.html?queryand=Maassen&firstHit=0&by=10&when=-2&begYear=1991&begMonth=04&begDay=01&endYear=1991&endMonth=11&endDay=30&sort=datedesc&rub=TOUT&pos=0&all=88&nav=1

1992: The Montluçon Tragi-comedy

In the 17th stage of the 1992 Tour of France – La Bourboule-Montluçon – the long-time feud that managers Jan Raas and Peter Post have set on each other was revived for a last and famous time. The Dutch broadcaster NOS made a great documentary around it in 2011 called ‘Ruzie in het peloton’ (‘Feud in the Peloton’). http://www.uitzendinggemist.net/aflevering/97131/Andere_Tijden_Sport.html

Guus van Holland from NRC Handelsblad said that the feud lost Maassen 15 to 20 victories. http://archief.nrc.nl/index.php/1992/Juli/23/Sport/6/Ruzie+heeft+Maassen+al+tussen+de+vijftien+en+twintig+overwinningen+gekost%3B+Vete+tussen+Post+en+Raas+dupeert+coureurs/check=Y 

This feud started 8/9 years before (see also Van Hooydonck bio). Peter Post was the manager of the legendary Ti-Raleigh team, that Tom Egbers from the NOS didn’t hesitate to call the greatest team of all time (900 victories in 10 seasons). But in 1983 the cycle factory Raleigh stopped sponsoring and during that year’s Tour of Romandy Raas phoned Post to tell him that he left the team at the end of the year and would create a new one called Kwantum, while still an active rider. He took half of the team with him. The real reason for the feud is something nobody knows about says Mart Smeets. The charismatic NOS commentator said he would give a lot to know that but Post is now dead and Raas said he would never say a word about this anymore. Smeets thinks Knetemann knew but Kneet also kept his secret in his grave.
On May 10 1983 Peter Post improvised a press conference, footage of which was shown in the documentary. Post showed his outstanding acting talents saying: “and don’t think that I’m living at war with Raas. That is absolutely completely not true. For me that can’t be.”

By the end of that season Post was still convinced that they would still have won equally as much if they were only one team. Of course in 1984 Panasonic was clearly the better team. Knetemann would argue that it basically is a good thing that there were young riders in the Kwantum team who could mature up but that the rivalry as such was not good for Dutch cycling.

In 1992 after many promises made by the then two managers to show more sportsmanship the feud was revived. In that stage three men were in front: Jean-Claude Colotti, Marc Sergeant (Panasonic – Post) and Frans Maassen (Buckler – Raas). Post was not in the cars himself but well his two assistant Walter Planckaert and Theo De Rooij. Raas was in the 1st Buckler and his assistant in the 2nd one was Hilaire Van der Schueren. They had a more than 10 minute lead ahead of the peloton and were sure to battle for the win. Suddenly two riders got in the chase, Philippe Louviot (ONCE) and Guy Nulens (Panasonic) but they wouldn’t get closer than 6’. Planckaert was behind Nulens and called De Rooij to stop Sergeant because Nulens was in the chase. In 2011 Sergeant called that an excuse. When asked if it were an excuse or a lie he answered ‘I think it was a lie’. De Rooij to Sergeant: “No more in front.” Sergeant: “Why not? Come on !” He kept sharing the workload. Sergeant distinctly remembered what De Rooij told him to finally convince him to stop: “No more in front or I run you off the road” (‘niet meer op kop of ik rijd je van de baan’ in Dutch). De Rooij didn’t remember it but said it could be. So Sergeant finally stop. Part II: Van der Schueren asked Maassen to stop. Maassen: “Hilaire, I’m gonna ride through. That’s my chance.” Maassen (in 2011): “I knew that Sergeant’s chances to win were tiny. It was my chance.”

Maassen and Sergeant were friends. Sergeant was one of Frans’s models when he was younger because in a breakaway, he never held back (until that particular case). “Post and Raas must have had incredibly authoritative personalities for never having had riders who revolted against them”, said Christophe Vandegoor in “Wuyts & Smeets …” (op.cit.) which Mart Smeets seconded: “Post and Raas were too strong for that.”

Colotti knew about the situation between Buckler and Panasonic. Everybody knew about it. He attacked a couple of times and Maassen would counter but in his last attempt Maassen seemed to counter but feared another counter-attack by Sergeant and refrained. In a short lapse of time he took a 100m lead and it was all over.

Maassen remembered the hilarity of the peloton who learned from the ‘slate-man’ (no radios then) that Colotti built a gap of 3’ over them. All journalists would rush to them, besiege De Rooij’s car. “It was a flop through and through”, says Maassen.

Sergeant was very quick to say “It was decided behind us, not by us.” Maassen as humble Limburger had class enough to admit that the riders equally were to blame as the managers.

Egbers would also show that Raas and Post made peace shortly after that event and there would be no more dirty tricks between the two team afterwards. We’ll see why.

1992: 2nd in Brussels by night

In 1992 the start of Paris-Brussels was delayed in order for the racers to arrive in the evening and not to disturb the traffic in Brussels. Back then they still finished in downtown Brussels.

By 1990 Mr Verbruggen took his ignominious measure, authoritatively reducing distance of all non-World Cup classics to 200/210km maximum. Paris-Brussels got an exemption due to geographical reasons. It’s impossible to link Paris to Brussels in less than 210km. Yet the race was still cut. In 1989 it was a grandiose 294km long race, longer than Milan-Sanremo. http://velorooms.com/index.php?topic=4101.0
According to De Wieler the race was 246km long from 1990 to 1992: http://www.dewielersite.net/db2/wielersite/wedstrijdfiche.php?wedstrijdid=358
But Bruno Deblander in Le Soir talks about a distance of 258.5km for 1992. It still is a massive cut compared to 1989 but still is long enough to operate a selection between the best and the very best, unlike future editions which will be cut down to less than 220km until 2012, while in 2013 the UCI decided the rule should also applied to Paris-Brussels, so that race promoters were only left to make loops around Brussels for 201km. A disgrace!

The first part of the race in France showed a peloton soft-pedalling with attacks notably from Bauer and from Meyvisch which all failed, until Moreno Argentin went on to a 140km solo, caught just before Alsemberg. In the Alsemberg climb Capiot attacked, bringing with him, Maassen, Anderson and two of Argentin’s Danish teammates from Ariostea (future Gewiss !): Rolf Sörensen and Bjarne Riis. Capiot won’t be able to follow so that they were only 4 to battle it out of the win. Maassen and Sörensen capitalized on a small cobbled climb to make the difference. Frans is normally the faster of the two but he seemed a bit tired and tried to surprise the Dane in a late attack but it failed and Sörensen wins that classic, which shows that after 258km a sprint is not the same as after a 200km race. Phil Anderson is 3rd, 6”. Ludwig wins the peloton sprint for 5th, 22” behind.

1992: Animator in Montreal

The GP cyclist de Montreal was created in 2010 on the same circuit as the 1974 World Championship with the Camilien Houde climb (Mount Royal) and the little côte de Polytechnique.

It’s a lesser known fact that there already existed a similar race between 1989 and 1992 on the calendar called the GP des Amériques, that Fignon called the GP de Montréal in his book (see above), anticipating on the new race that he would never know. The GP des Amériques consisted of a 16km circuit to be covered 14 times. It’s not exactly the same circuit as the later GP de Montréal or the 1974 Worlds which was 12.5km, the traditional Camilien-Houde circuit but this latter climb was definitely on it. In 1992 it was renamed Téléglobe GP, after new sponsor, French Canadian TV Channel.

Maassen animated the first part of the race with some obscure breakaway mates: Switzerland’s Guido Winterberg, Italy’s Maurizio Rossi, Russia’s Romes Gainetdinov and France’s Bruno Cornillet. Gradually he would drop them one by one but the break would fail due to the chase led by Bugno, Bauer, the surprisingly strong Marco Giovanetti and most of all the collectively mighty ONCE team riding for their new recruit Laurent Jalabert.

With 40km to go Maassen was caught back on Camilien-Houde, the irony being that all these chasers would be surprised by an old Spaniard who discovered in the 90’s that he had champion’s legs: Federico Echave. Maassen is 38th.

The GP des Amériques would not survive that edition. The promoter – Serge Arsenault – though an avid cycling fan said it cost too much for just one day and has lost 1 million $ (US or CAN?) in three years. The UCI’s dream of a Babel cycling is postponed, races would slightly get back to the traditional countries.

1992: Active in fastest Paris-Tours till then

Paris-Tours has a World Cup event since the creation of it in 1989. One of the FICP/UCI’s rare good decision was to force the race organizers to get back to its traditional route with finish in Tours. From 1974 to 1987 they decided to design its route in the opposite direction (Tours-Versailles, among other labels) in order to catch some of the climbs in the Chevreuse Valley and avoid bunch sprints. This new route back to Tours was designed by local champion, Jean-Pierre Danguillaume, who had enough knowledge to add some climbs like the now famous Côte du Petit pas d’âne.

After 106km of racing Maassen is already in a breakaway with 10 other riders: Hodge, Marie, Van Slycke, Delion, Meyvisch, Frison, Alvis, Hamburger, Hanegraaf et Gouvenou and they would have a 3’ lead at best. When the gap was reduced to 36” Herman Frison accelerated and Gilles Delion dropped. They would be caught at km 199.

With 24km to go Maassen recovered well enough to get his place in the decisive escape with Phil Anderson, Hendrik Redant, Christian Henn, Jalabert, Ludwig and Tchmil but the gap was still tiny. On the Petit pas d’âne Redant would attack with Henn and outsprint him. Anderson is 6th. Maassen is 8th 34” behind, with Fondriest and Van Hooydonck just behind him. They eventually caught him. No sprinter there, race for hard men.

1992: UCI Ranking

Just before Paris-Tours Maassen was 13th in the now called UCI ranking. Eventually he would be ranked #14 at season ending. Indurain was #1. His best win that year was the Three-Days of De Panne but again his consistency secures his place in the top20. Teammate Nijdam was ranked #15 and Fondriest #20. http://archives.lesoir.be/automobilisme_t-19921109-Z0615H.html?queryand=Maassen&firstHit=0&by=10&when=-2&begYear=1992&begMonth=09&begDay=01&endYear=1992&endMonth=11&endDay=27&sort=datedesc&rub=SPOR&rub2=&pos=0&all=20&nav=1

1993: Epic Tour of Flanders

The 1993 Tour of Flanders was dealt with in the Van Hooydonck bio. However an info that we brought in there is contradicted by another source. According to the book 1913-2013: 100 jaar De Ronde van Vlaanderen (Borgerhoff & Lamberigts) the decisive escape including Maassen, Van Hooydonck, Museeuw, Fondriest, Sciandri, Bottaro, Ballerini and Sergeant started with 75km to go. But Giuseppe Aucelli who wrote a biography of Maurizio Fondriest argued that it started with 66km to go and adds that it was initiated by Van Hooydonck: http://www.mauriziofondriest.com/d/sites/default/files/biografia.pdf (on p.62; in Italian).
The rest is common knowledge. Museeuw attacks on the Tenbossestraat in Brakel, which was then unclassified and only Maassen could respond. Maassen never took the lead because it was planned by Raas that Van Hooydonck should attack from behind. He recalls that Van Hooydonck did attack behind his back but never managed to bridge the gap: http://www.wielerwedstrijden.com/nieuws.html?id=231 (in Dutch). So they remain with the two of them in front and in the last km he did take the lead once or twice. Maassen also remembered he was booed and spat on on the Kapelmuur: “terrible nasty Hollander.”
Museeuw told Wuyts in the series De Flandriens that he didn’t care riding in front because he knew that in the sprint “Maassen was not a problem”. The 1993 Museeuw is uncomparable to the 1992 one. Mart Smeets reported a comment by Maassen saying that there was no way he could have won that race. The two realized that Museeuw wasn’t a real champion until then (while aged 27) and Lefevere built a top team around him.

Wuyts in the same book revealed that Ballerini – who was a teammate of Museeuw’s – made an offer to Sergeant to chase hard behind as he couldn’t do it himself. “So was Ballerini” sayd Wuyts (the Italian would do the same the following year as was revealed by Wuyts series De Flandriens).

About the Tour of Flanders, Maassen liked the way it was “simply woven in the culture” in Belgium. “All Belgium stood along the road. It’s simply a feast.”

1993: First Paris-Roubaix finished

Maassen raced Paris-Roubaix for the 1st time in 1990 but didn’t reach the Vélodrome. In his three last season he would always finish the Queen of the Classics. A strong guy of 182cm and 71kg (form weight) certainly has enough body to face the dreadful cobbles but for a Dutchman it seems more important to peak for Amstel. However in these years of EPO generalization he probably would better attack these races for specialists rather than the Ardennes where everything was blocked by then.

In 1993 Maassen would rather do a constant chasing race behind the leaders. Around Templeuve – 32km to go – he was in a chasing group with teammate Nijdam, Redant, De Wolf, Aldag and Ghirotto that just joined the group with all the leaders: Van Hooydonck and Moncassin (his two teammates), Ballerini, Museeuw, Sergeant, Duclos-Lassalle, Ludwig, Yates, Nelissen, Verhoeven, Capiot and Van Itterbeeck, with only Frison and Van der Poel having just attack.

Unfortunately for Frans, the next cobbled section was Cysoing, where Ballerini chose to place his decisive attack with Duclos-Lassalle, the two riders about which Robert Chapatte said they didn’t look like riding on cobbles, least of all Ballerini.

Maassen finished the race 19th, 4’12” behind winner Duclos-Lassalle. The official results about that race are inaccurate. In the book “Paris-Roubaix, une classique unique” (Pascal Sergent & Michel d’Argenton – Coups de pédale, 2012), riders from place #14 to #23 are ranked in the same time. These are in order: Redant, Ghirotto, Nijdam, Verhoeven, Frison, Maassen, De Wolf, Ruiz Cabestany, Peeters and Bauer. On De Wielersite, they bring the exact same results: http://www.cyclingarchives.com/ritfiche.php?ritid=9156#first

As a matter of fact they were seven to enter the velodrome together but De Wolf was soft pedaling on it so that they were only 6 in the same time with Maassen being the last of the group. Patrick Chêne from France TV announced De Wolf crossing the line about 12/13” after Redant. Bauer could get back to the main group after being dropped on Mons-en-Pévèle. He was announced by André Garcia (France TV on the motorbike) in a group with LeMond but attacking from it with Pello Ruiz Cabestany but they remained far behind, so they would have spared a lot of energy if they could have joined Maassen’s group but the pictures clearly did not show them crossing the line in the same time as the six previously mentioned.

1993: Last performance in a major race: Oslo World Championship

In 1993 the Worlds were still raced in August but it rained cats and dogs in Norway. The route was not hard, main climb being the Ekeberg (0.8km – 6.7% av.gr.). Maassen was in front. Dag Otto Lauritzen attacked on entering the final lap and Maassen joined him, along with Ludwig. The gap with the chase group was very tiny and on the climb Lauritzen went away, because Ludwig and Maassen were still keeping a sharp eye on each other. When Lance Armstrong attacked from the chase group, Maassen took his wheel and Ludwig dropped. They got back to Lauritzen. Armstrong attacked in the descent of the Ekeberg and Maassen didn’t react. Two years later he thought he was probably the strongest in the race but was inattentive, “stupid” was his word.

He eventually finished 10th of a race with a top10 filled with dopers: Armstrong, Museeuw, Ludwig or Riis. For a last time he and Fondriest would have been rivals as the Italian was 5th.

In the final UCI ranking, Maassen is ranked 24th, just ahead of teammate Nijdam. Indurain is still #1.

As far as the World Cup is concerned Maassen tried to escape again at Paris-Tours, 30km from finish and eventually took a 13th place, followed by an 11th place at the GP des Nations, placing him at the 17th rank overall, just ahead of Van Hooydonck. Fondriest won it head & shoulders above anyone else.

1994: The “Potato Genreration”

By 1994 the Dutch cycling standard was lower and lower. In 1992 in the heat of the Post-Raas feud both managers actually were struggling to find new sponsors for the following years because cycling was no longer interesting anybody in the Netherlands, the glory days of Ti-Raleigh were long gone. Raas still could find the computer software WordPerfect, while Post found with painting companies Novemail and Histor, two new French and Belgian resp. sponsors but it owned a French license and only had two Dutch riders in its squad. At the end of the 1994 he would definitely retire from the cycling world, calling the Dutch cycling of that time, the “patatgeneratie”, the “potato generation”. There was no need for big feud with Raas any longer.

Jelle Nijdam explained to the Volkskrant on April 22 1995 that “Frans Maassen and I were somewhat considered as the scapegoats for the decline of Dutch cycling. That doesn’t make sense.”

On April 23 1994 an article by Jaap Visser for the Volkskrant was very interesting for who wants to understand what was going on in cycling and in particular Dutch cycling at that moment. Reading it in 2013 is very interesting and ironic: http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2844/Archief/archief/article/detail/380344/1994/04/23/Al-is-Maassen-nog-zo-snel-de-Italiaan-achterhaalt-hem-wel.dhtml (in Dutch).

Visser argued that the year before Maassen was almost World Champion. Had he got the World Title the Dutch cycling crisis would have been healed straightway. We may argued it might also have been the tree that hid the forest.

The journalist first report about a meeting with Maassen in the Leonardo da Vinci Hotel in Milan the day before Milan-Sanremo and heard him say “No idea where the Italians are hanging out, surely training, it now seems they’re doing nothing but that.” Visser added that a light irony resound in Maassen’s voice.

Before the first major rendez-vous of the year Maassen already suspected the Italians’ performances. On that Milan-Sanremo Furlan would win with the fastest ever ascent of the Poggio and Maassen was … 155th. Of course Maassen knew what was going on but couldn’t say anything. One week later at the Brabantse Pijl, Van Hooydonck had the audacity to openly suspect the performances by the Italians and he became an outcast.

On April 20 Visser found Maassen back again. It was the evening of the infamous Gewiss sweep at the Walloon Arrow. Maassen was sitting on a bench agape of astonishment contemplating the Ardennes attack by the Gewiss-Ballan riders. “I’m really impressed. The Italians are putting everyone in their place. They are in a league of their own and the gap with the rest is bigger and bigger because they demoralize the field with their superior way of racing. I've been flapping my ears.”

By then everybody was looking for an explanation. Maassen: “We are all wondering how this can for God’s sake happen. Everybody’s talking about it: riders, managers, soigneurs, sponsors and journalists. Nobody knows the answer. […] But it’s nonsensical to think that those guys would ride so hard only because of doping. You can do something as preparation that doesn’t make more than 5% difference and the gap between the Italians and us is more than 5%, you know. […] It’s a sum of several factors: more talent, harder races, better training methods and a professional follow-up, mainly medical and mentally those Italians are far ahead of us. I don’t know what they do but mentally they stronger and stronger than us.”

It seems clear that Maassen did not want any problem by that time. In 2013 Mart Smeets reveals that in the week of the Van Hooydonck allegations (Flèche brabançonne), Maassen came to talk to him, reported him the comments by Van Hooydonck and: “I may not talk about it. I don’t want to say anything about it but I’m telling you in trust: I’m dropped uphill by men that rode half an hour behind me before. That can no longer be and with my wife I decided to stop.”

Reading the Volkskrant article in 2013 is interesting because at that time the readers were too close to the facts to understand anything while 19 years afterwards we’ve had so many information about it that we may have the feeling that everything makes sense.

It shows that we are always right to learn history. “There’s no secret that time does not reveal”, said Racine (one of his characters). That quote always proves right but unfortunately people tend to forget. What is going on in the peloton at the time we speak will most probably be explained 10 or 20 years later. “If you don’t know your history, then it’s as if you were born yesterday and if you were born yesterday, anyone in a high-up position may tell you anything”, said Howard Zinn and it’s terribly true !

1994: Last notable win, the Tour of Luxembourg

The Tour of Luxembourg was a relatively easy stage race but with a long past. In the nineties, its relatively easy route served as a refuge for clean riders who would rather leave dopers mixing it up on the Dauphiné or the Tour of Switzerland. Consider these comments by Erik Dekker (by then Maassen’s teammate at WordPerfect) to Thijs Zonneveld:

“I told team director Theo De Rooij that I no longer wanted to race Tirreno-Adriatico or the Tour of Switzerland. I was ridiculed there; it made no sense how hard they raced there. In smaller races like the Tour of Luxembourg it was still all right but in the big tours and classics I couldn’t do well.[…] Afterwards it wasn’t until 1997 before I could reach a lead group that reach the finish.”
(Erratum: De Rooij wasn’t in the team yet, there must have been a transcription mistake)
http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2013/01/21/teruglezen-een-ploeg-als-zovele-over-gebruik-doping-bij-raboploeg/ (in Dutch).

In 1994 Erik Dekker finished 7th in the Tour of Luxembourg 1’25” behind his leader … Frans Maassen who based his win in the 12km ITT Fötz-Bettembourg when he was 2” faster than Mauri, 11” faster than Arturas Kasputis, 16” faster than Aitor Garmendia (Saiz boy) and 22” faster than Vjatceslav Ekimov.
In the final ranking he would still resist the sprinter George Hincapie with 7”. Time bonuses didn’t prevail that time. Mauri is 3rd, 59” behind. Phil Anderson is 9th, 1’37” behind.

1995: The best Liège-Bastogne-Liège he’s ever raced

Just like Van Hooydonck Maassen started the 1995 season morally boosted after having trained the whole winter and yet the day of the Amstel he told Visser: “Last week I raced to my feeling my best Liège-Bastogne-Liège ever. I was 38th.” http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2844/Archief/archief/article/detail/407624/1995/04/24/Gelost-worden-in-Limburg-snijdt-Maassen-dwars-door-de-ziel.dhtml and http://www.trouw.nl/tr/nl/5009/Archief/archief/article/detail/2697562/1995/04/24/Maassen-sluit-een-tijdperk-af.dhtml (In Dutch).

Let’s add he finished in the last group of the only 51 finishers of that race, 15’13” behind Mauro Gianetti, who discovered at age 31 that he could win classics. His best result in the Ardennes’ classic is 18th in 1991, only 2’36” behind Argentin, while he was – to his feeling – better in 1995.

In the subsequent Amstel Gold Frans had to retire with 100km to go. The win went again to Gianetti. Again he would say “I can no longer keep up. My engine was too small. Incomprehensible because four years ago my engine was just as big and I won here.[…] I’d give a ton of my salary to win a race again. […] If I don’t want to get frustrated I’ll have to lower my goals now. Goodness I have to win something, a small race if necessary. Never winning a race is terrifying. Cycling is scary at this moment.”

Visser noted that condition tests showed that Maassen was better than ever, that 4 years before he beat Gianetti in a small race (we couldn’t trace that 1991 victory back, a mistake?), that nobody had ever heard of Gianetti for years and now he wins two World Cup classics in a row. “There are many things that Maassen can’t understand, right now” says the journalist.

In official races no more victories would come. Only a derny race in Maastricht, a criterium in Dortmund and in Heerlen and that’s it. A 2nd place to Dekker in the Tour of Cologne is his best result of the year.

1995: End of career at age 30

In 1994 Maassen told Visser (op.cit.) that he wouldn’t race at an older age than 32 because that isn’t responsible. He actually stopped at the end of the 1995 season, at age 30 and 10 months. Cycling became more of a job than a sport. The field had suddenly become much too strong and he considered it very unhealthy to continue.

In October 1995 he would still race the World Championship in Duitama, Colombia. National Coach Gerrie Knetemann (RIP) fooled him, saying it was not harder than Stuttgart [1991] “but at high altitude it’s another story.” He was 27th at the ITT race.

Maassen has always been (too?) careful when he talked about doping. On December 9 1995 he would tell Bart Jungmann and Bert Wagendorp that he loved watching Ben Johnson and that he didn’t find him dishonest “because it was his decision.” However he would also say: “if you are positive it shouldn’t be covered up.” Finally he also already made a statement that would be very common among cycling fans in the 21st century: “The problem of doping exists in every sport. I think the emphasis terribly put on cycling.”

The link between the generalized doping methods in the peloton in the mid-nineties and Maassen’s decline has never been made until 21st century.

On May 5 2012 an article by Doormark Miserus in the Volkskrant said:
“Frans Maassen called it an end at that time because doping led to unexplainable strength differences. Edwig Van Hooydonck began the 1996 season with Rabo but did the same as Maassen a bit later on.” [in April 1996, exactly, e.d.]
http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2844/Archief/archief/article/detail/3250937/2012/05/05/Toch-niet-roomser-dan-de-paus.dhtml (in Dutch)

In 2013 you have the revelation made by Smeets (mentioned above) about the comment by Maassen from 1994.

In the meantime many indication had pointed into that direction. In 1999 the former Dutch great climber Peter Winnen was interviewed by Jaap Bloembergen for NRC Handelsblad in an article called “Toen doping nog onschuldig was” (‘When Doping Was Still Innocent’); the title referring to his period – the eighties – compared to the nineties.
He said: “Coincidence or not, in 1997 [the year the UCI made their first blood tests] Dutch cycling recvered after a long depression. Everybody said that our guys didn’t train hard enough. I always had to laugh at this cold reasoning. The Dutch cycling crisis had little to do with a lack of talent, as was often claimed. Dutch teams simply weren’t leading with regards to medical assistance and their lag has now been closed.”

In 2007 Edwig Van Hooydonck made smashing allegations for Het Nieuwsblad and the Belgian broadcaster BRT (see Van Hooydonck’s bio). Among other things he said that in the teams he raced Jan Raas implemented a zero tolerance policy towards doping: EPO, testosterone, HGH, etc. “Jan Raas protected us.” He also said that the new recruits every year were staggered by the way they prepared and that Abdujaparov had to leave Novell at the end of 1995 because he was addicted to the thing and couldn’t stay any longer with Rabobank. That’s why he would review every Italian team for a new contract.

Maassen and Van Hooydonck were teammates from 1987 to 1995, in Raas’ teams: Superconfex, Buckler, WordPerfect and Novell. From this we may derive that what is true for the one is also true for the other. In 2013 Wuyts said that Van Hooydonck’s stance came from his own sense of ethics but also from the Raas system. That’s what Van Hooydonck always told him. At first it seems surprising because the Zealander was a rude character and a former champion himself for whom only victory counted but it’s the way it is and it’s much to his credit.

1996 to 2002: Discovering new talents

1996 was the year Frans’ cousin Bart Brentjens became the first MTB Olympic champion, at the first Olympics open to professional riders, one more step to “modernity”.

The team in which Maassen used to race changed sponsor again. Novell already announced in May 1995 it retired for cycling. In September he found a buyer: a sponsor that will stay in the professional/elite men’s road peloton for the next 17 seasons (+ 1 season for cyclocross, amateur and women racing), namely Rabobank !

Rabobank will also develop a youth plan, unique in the peloton, making it over the years the reference with regards to youth training and Frans Maassen was most definitely one of the driving forces behind it.

Between 1996 and 2002 Frans Maassen was in charge of the Rabobank Junior Team. Nico Verhoeven – ironically a former Post-rider till the Novemail years who stopped in 1995 just like Maassen – was in charge of the amateur team while Theo De Rooij – ironically the former assistant to Post as mentioned above and a rider for Post too – and Adri Van Houwelingen were the sporting directors for the pro team (renamed ‘elite’ team in 1997), Raas becoming the manager (he drove the car for the last time in Lombardy 1995).

In 1997 Sörensen won the Tour of Flanders for Rabobank. The Rabobank PR manager Frank van der Meijden agreed to an interview with Trouw at the start of Paris-Roubaix and said: “It’s nice that Sörensen wins but the youth plan is more important. What Frans Maassen and Nico Verhoeven are doing for us is more important than what Theo De Rooij and Adri Van Houwelingen show as sporting director.” http://www.trouw.nl/tr/nl/5009/Archief/archief/article/detail/2695390/1997/04/12/Dat-Sorensen-wint-is-mooi-maar-het-jeugdplan-is-belangrijker.dhtml# (in Dutch).

“Frans Maassen has a great contact with these kids and their parents”, said Raas to Bart Jungmann for the Volkskrant in November 1996: http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2698/Sport/archief/article/detail/440947/1996/11/02/Met-Jan-Raas-gaat-het-weer-crescendo.dhtml (in Dutch)

The difficulty for Maassen was to control his pupils who are sometimes willing to 6 or 7 hours, which is far too much for such young riders, aged 16/17. Besides many are still going to school and can learn to become doctors, so that he can’t advise them to focus on cycling. A guy like Karsten Kroon was already an excellent amateur rider when he coached juniors but Kroon, on the other hand, he advised him to turn pro as soon as he could. “This Kroon is a World class one”, he said in 1998.
Maassen was also glad he didn’t work with too ambitious kids and deal with too ambitious parents otherwise he would have stopped.

Riders who raced for the Junior Rabobank Team:


Roel Egelmeers:Egelmeers won in 1997 the Giro della Lunigiana “a terribly hard stage race around La Spezia” (said Maassen). That race would be won by Cunego, Nibali or Mohoric after him. He was also twice cyclocross national champion (1996 & 1997), won the climb race Liège-La Gleize, the Tour of Lorraine and the Classique des Alpes in 1997. With the elite his main results was a second place in a stage of the Tour of Burkina Faso in 2007, offering him a contract with Van Vliet. Insiders probably know why he didn’t make a great pro career. As for many other riders, the question remains: “what happened?”

Pieter Weening: “Pieter was a doubtful case. We were not convinced. But in his first year with us he won the Classique des Alpes, with a 4’ minutes lead. It was then clear that we had a good climber with us”, said Maassen after Weening won a Tour of France stage in Gerardmer in 2005, talking about the 1999 edition of the Classique des Alpes. http://www.frieschdagblad.nl/index.asp?artID=24699 (in Dutch and Frisian). Weening was true to Rabobank from 1999 to 2011, when he signed for Orica-Greenedge. He’s made a very good pro career though with ups and downs, with a stage win on white roads at the Tour of Italy and a win in the Tour of Poland in 2013 (sort of his race, already 2nd in 2005).

Kenny Van Hummel:
Van Hummel joined the Rabobank Junior Team in 1999. He would then win the final stage of the Bank Austria Junior Tour: 109km from Thörl to Waidhofen an der Ybbs. In 2000 he raced the Tour of Abitibi in Quebec, winning a stage disqualification of Rashaan Bahati and a stage in the Tour of High Austria, ahead of other Rabo Peter Möhlmann (Gilbert finishing 4th) and 3rd in the Omloop Het Volk/Nieuwsblad and the Three Days of Axel . Kenny was also a skilful cyclocrosser as a junior finishing 4th at the 2000 Worlds, won by Aernouts (himself a future Rabo rider, then coached by Van Hooydonck). Van Hummel went to become one of the best sprinters on the Belgian/Dutch circuit as a pro.

Koen De Kort:
Koen joined the junior Rabo team in 1999 as well. He was one of the most consistent riders for two years. 5th in the Bank Austria Junior Tour, won by Eisel in 1999; 5th in the Route de l’Avenir 2000, won by Vaugrenard ahead of Gilbert. 3rd in the Tour of High Austria 2000 won by Gilbert and 2nd to Masur in the Tour of Abitibi, that same year (which placed at #15 at the Junior World Cup). De Kort was also 6th in the 2000 cyclocross World Championship, won by Aernouts. His best results with the pros came when he was still U23: The Eddy Merckx GP, which by then were raced by pairs, partnering Thomas Dekker but beating experienced pros. He turned pro in 2005 with Liberty Seguros. That was a
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  • "Paris-Roubaix is the biggest cycling race in the world, bigger than the Tour de France, bigger than any other bike race" (Sir Bradley Wiggins)

    Echoes

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    Re: Echoes' Cycling Biography #5: Frans Maassen
    « Reply #1 on: October 15, 2013, 16:36 »
    That was also the moment Rabobank had trouble keeping their riders with them. When these lines are written he still racing for Argos Shimano.
    http://autobus.cyclingnews.com/results/2000/apr00/routeavenir00.shtml (Route de l’Avenir results)


    Niels Scheuneman: a multi-talent in the junior ranked. Twice a runner-up in the Classique des Alpes (2000 & 2001). At the ITT Worlds in Lisbon 2001 he was 3rd, only 1” behind Van den Broeck, while Kvachuk was 2nd. Niels lost the World title, just because of a turn that he miss in the final part of the circuit. In the in-line race he did even better, 2nd to Kvachuk while Perget was 3rd. In the World Cup Scheuneman contributed to the Rabo dominance winning the Grand Prix Rüebliland in Switzerland (ahead of Perget, Schwager, De Maar, Christensen and Roy), placing him at the 2nd rank overall behind Vastaranta. Scheuneman turned pro in 2005. His best result that year was a 6th place at the Tour of Luxembourg. That was also the best result of his short career. He couldn’t find a new contract after 2007. He raced as an amateur in 2008/9 before calling it an end, working in a cycle factory. History will probably tell us what went wrong with this kid. http://hetiskoers.nl/2010/vergeten-wielrenner-scheuneman-niels/ (in Dutch)
    http://ftp.cyclingnews.com/results/2001/sep01/jrruebliland01.shtml

    Marc De Maar:
    In 2001 Marc De Maar won the Classique des Alpes ahead of Scheuneman, while Perget was 3rd. Maassen thought he discovered a talented climber back then but as a pro De Maar would never confirmed that talent and ironically his best results as a pro were rather in the Flandrian races: 15th in the 2006 Omloop Het Volk/Nieuwsblad . In 2010 De Maar chose to race for the Island of Curaçao, former Dutch Antilles, which secured him of a national title, every year. In 2013 he’s still racing for UnitedHealthcare.

    Martijn Maaskant: In 2000 Maaskant was a first year junior for the club Zuid-Oost Nederland and noticed by Maassen who took him to Rabobank for the following season and was 2nd in the Three Days of Axel and 20th in the Two Days of Heuvelland (10th in the ITT and 2nd to Honig in Stage 2). Maaskant turned pro late – in 2008 for Garmin at age 24 (Garmin made a more attractive offer, the Rabo staff did not appreciate for he owed everything to Rabo). The year before at age 23/24 was his best year as a contractless elite. He would get a 5th place at his very first Paris-Roubaix, as neo-pro. The year after he confirmed with a 4th place at the Tour of Flanders and that was it. In 2013 he’s stil pro with UnitedHealthcare.

    Jukka Vastaranta: A terror among the junior ranks in 2001/2. Bert Saarloos made an article about him for the newspaper De Limburger, translated into English for CN (in 2001): http://ftp.cyclingnews.com/teamprofiles/2001/vastaranta01.shtml
    The 17 year old from Tampere, the second city of Finland, 200 km north of the capital Helsinki, has had a remarkable season. Three wins in six World Cup races: the Coupe du Président/Coupe Ville de Grudziadz in Poland (29 April - 3 May), the Grand Prix Général Patton in Luxembourg (7-8 July) and the Tour de l'Abitibi in Canada (16-22 July). With a fifth place in the Junior Peace Race and a ninth in the Ober-Österreich Rundfahrt it brought him to the top of the world junior ranking, with the first rival nowhere in sight. Last weekend he won the European junior mountain bike title in Sankt Wendel, Germany.
    In the Ober-Österreich Rundfahrt, Jukka met Frans Maassen, former Dutch champ and winner of the Amstel Gold Race, Wincanton Classic and numerous other races and nowadays sport director of the Rabobank junior team. "I asked a Rabobank soigneur if I could get a lift to Holland and if he'd knew a place to stay for a while, since I was planning on racing some time in Holland and Belgium," Jukka says.
    Maassen didn't hesitate. "I watched him since he won in Poland. And there in Austria he rode very well, winning a stage. I immediately knew that this was an extraordinary talent. So I took him with me. You can't let a rider like Jukka walk away."
    With good reason. In Luxembourg and Canada, Jukka got a lot of offers from foreign teams. But Maassen acted quicker.
    […]That was after he had impressed Maassen with his ride during the RAP (Rabobank Ardennen Proef), three days of talent scouting in the Ardennes to which all promising young riders from Holland are invited. The hill time trial is particularly important. Jukka won both. In the first Tom Stamsnijder, […] set a new RAP record. Jukka pulverised it, being almost a minute faster. "And the conditions were not particularly good", said Maassen.[…]

    Next year Jukka will ride for a local club, possibly TWC Maaslandster. For this team Jukka rode (and won) the Heuvelland Tweedaagse as a guest rider. Sport director Robert van der Donk, a former top amateur: "I know Frans Maassen is charmed of my way of working with juniors. I don't emphasize getting results, but I let young riders grow and learn, making mistakes. What's the point of juniors already being pushed to the limit? In a couple of years, that's when they have to get results, not now." […]Maassen: "Anyway, I will be monitoring Jukka very closely. I'll certainly keep being personally involved in training Jukka." The very same person stayed at Maassen's house last week, because Maassen went for a few days to Italy with the professional team (for the Tre Valli Varesine, Coppa Agostoni and Coppa Bernocchi). […]Jukka also knew little about cycling. "To be honest, I had never heard of Frans Maassen. I didn't now how good he was as a pro cyclist," he confesses. "Now I know."

    Vastaranta turned pro in 2005. Just as Scheuneman his only decent result was a stage at the Tour of Luxembourg (3rd in a stage behind Bodrogi and Cancellara). What went wrong afterwards, history will tell us, though insiders probably know. When he was racing for Mitsubishi Jartazi, he seemed to have past an inside blood test which said he had a 56% hematocrit. Verification is needed.

    Johnny Hoogerland:
    Hoogerland joined the Rabobank junior team in 2001, for which he won the Tour of Flanders, ahead of other Rabo Kor Steenbergen. He was also 4th in the Two Days of Heuvelland and 3rd in the General Patton GP (giving him a rank #8 in the World Cup). In September that year Maassen sacked him for positive test for testosterone. It later appeared that he had a naturally high testosterone/epitestosterone ratio but the harm was done and Hoogerland had to fight to make his way to the pros. He made a first attempt in 2006 with Jartazi and then finally in 2009 with Vacansoleil and finish 5th at the Tour of Lombardy. In 2013 he’s national champion.

    Tom Stamsnijder: The son of former cyclocross great Hennie Stamsnijder. Stammie was mentioned above when he beat the record of the climb race R.A.P. in 2001, though then outclassed by Vastaranta. The following year Stammie won the Tour of Flanders ahead of Joost Van Leijen. He turned pro in 2006 with Gerolsteiner. His most impressive result came from the time he was still U23. With the GS3 Rabo team, he ended 7th in the GP Cerami, won by his then teammate Kai Reus, all against experienced pros. In 2013 he’s still in the pro peloton, racing for Argos Shimano (see also: http://velorooms.com/index.php?topic=2105.0 )

    Thomas Dekker: Dekker joined the Rabo Junior Team in 2002, for which he would win the climb race Liège-La Gleize and a stage in the Junior Tour of Münster. He was 2nd of the World Cup behind Matej Jurco but ahead of Vastaranta. He turned U23, the following year and was seen as a prodigy, winning the Eddy Merckx GP with Koen De Kort against experienced pro, while still U23. Unfortunately he yielded to the siren song of doping and joined Cechini, along with Remmert Wielinga and tested positive for EPO in December 2007.

    Lars Boom: Perhaps the biggest talent among the former Junior Rabo riders. In 2002 he was 3rd in the Junior Classique des Alpes behind Florian Vachon and Gianni Meersman. He did better the following year (though no longer for Rabo) behind Julien Loubet but ahead of Andy Schleck. Already as a junior Lars alternated indifferently road and cross. In 2002 he wins the most demanding cyclocross of the season – Asper Gavere: ahead of guys like Dieter Vanthourenhout or Eddy van IJzendoorn, Sebastiaan Langeveld was 6th and in 2003 World Champion ahead of Van IJzendoorn, Stybar and Langeveld. Albert was 6th and Kuhlavy 11th. He would repeat this performance as a U23 and as Elite before focusing rather on the road. In 2013 he still rides for Belkin (ex Rabobank, which he’s always been true to) and at age 27 he still has the chance to make up a huge palmares. He’s already very much present in the classics and one-week stage races.

    2003 till date: Sporting director at Rabobank/Blanco/Belkin
    By the end of 2002 the Rabo Junior Team ended. Maassen became a full-time sporting director for the elite team (though he already worked for it along with the juniors as mentioned).

    Jan Raas resigned as manager on May 16 2004 and was replaced by Theo De Rooij, while Erik Breukink joined the staff as main sporting director. In August 2007 De Rooij resigned as manager and was replaced by Henri van der Aat, himself replaced by Harold Knebel the year after. In 2012 Breukink resigned as main sporting director and was replaced for that job by Frans Maassen.

    As sporting director Maassen would have to face with Rabobank’s retirement from men’s elite road cycling (though the bank still sponsored a women team and cyclocross, in 2013). On October 19 2012 Rabobank announced its retirement most probably to anticipate the negative publicity coming from several former riders’ admitions to doping: Danny Nelissen, Rolf Sörensen, Levy Leipheimer and Michael Boogerd.

    Many things had changed since Maassen retired as pro cyclist. Rabobank bought the Novell team for the 1996 season. The first months of it saw the team’s rider making poorer and poorer performances. Van Hooydonck retired on April 30. An anonymous rider from that year’s Rabobank team made revelations to former rider and now author Thijs Zonneveld:

    “In May 1996 Raas was fed up. I don’t know what Rabobank told him or whether there other influence from outside but the measure was full. We were called along with a lot of riders – let’s say the best from the team – Raas was angry, such as only he could be. […] There, during this discussion, the word EPO fell for the first time. It is then May 1996. Then team doctor Geert Leinders called us one by one and explained to us what EPO was and what hematocrit was. What were the dangers, the drawbacks and the advantages of it. What you could and could do and from whom he knew that they used it in other teams. A nice sales argument because for a lot of us it triggered anger. After all at that moment we raced clean against ‘prepared’ riders. Leinders found it no dope because ‘it was not positive’. […] I still remember that it was no Eprex but Recormon and that every doctor from the team knew what we did, no exception. […] So did every sporting director. It had nothing left to do with sport. Therefore I didn’t ride a bike. Retrospectively I can only draw one conclusion: it was a big circus in which good people became villains in one day.”

    So that in summer 1996 Rabobank won two stages in the Tour of France. The revival started but it was still no big deal. As Peter Winnen argued the real Rabobank (and Dutch cycling) revival came in 1997 when the UCI introduced their first blood tests (he thinks Raas was among the managers who asked the UCI to do something, but argued it was more out of self-interest than for moral reasons). After that Sörensen won a Tour of Flanders for Rabo and Leon van Bon was almost World Champion. From then on the team will make good performances every year until 2012.

    By 2013 a new sponsor bought the former Rabobank structure: Blanco, itself bought over by Belkin in summer that same year. Nico Verhoeven is now the main sporting director and Maassen one of his assistants.

    2014 will celebrate the 30 years of the structure created by Jan Raas and a few others with the then main sponsor Kwantum and riders like Sep Vanmarcke, the great Bauke Mollema or Robert Gesink and younger riders Wilco Kelderman or Marc Goos, Kwantum’s legacy may still live on.

    Also with regards to doping there’s improvement. Blanco decided to suspend Luis Leon Sanchez for 6 months in the first part of the 2013 season and Belkin sacked him for the 2014 season because “he was involved in too many affairs.”

    You also have the Sep Vanmarcke (who loved being compared to Van Hooydonck) comments: “Things are good now but there needs to be more testing. I know it’s expensive but more testing is the best way to scare the riders.
    “My last test was in November and that’s really, really too long if you’re any rider, no matter how good you are. If you see last year most positives were from out of competition. Athletes all know that if you win a race or make the podium you will be tested so not many will try in the races. If you see with blood doping it was always in training camps or in preparation for big races so there should be lots more out of competition testing.
    “It’s hard to say to people that you have to believe I’m clean when my last test was almost half a year ago. Even then you can’t prove everything with tests so it’s hard to convince people you’re clean. Sometimes I think it’s impossible and I get frustration. I saw in the press, in Belgium 90 per cent of people don’t believe in clean cycling any more. I do everything to be as good as possible, everything except taking anything that’s illegal, and then no one believes you. That’s so frustrating.
    “I tweeted that people need to give us a chance but then the reaction from people is that I need to prove myself. How can I prove myself? It’s really difficult. Since then I try not to give too much attention to it because I can’t fix everything. I race clean, I can’t be more clean and I can’t do anything else.”

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/vanmarcke-talks-classics-anti-doping-and-the-tue-process

    History will tell us whether he was fooling us or was sincere but there’s reason to be optimistic for the future.

    Appendices

    The profile for the main climb of the 1989 Wincanton Classic: Lobley Hill/Marley Hill



    The 6 riders who “battled it out” for place 14 of the 1993 Paris-Roubaix, and not 10 riders as official results say. Maassen is the last of them. Teammate Nijdam is recognizable too.




    Milan-Sanremo 1989 (in Italian):


    Finale from the 1991 Amstel Gold is also on YT with Dutch comments by Mart Smeets


    We’ll bring once again the highlights from Belgium’s BRTN: http://www.sporza.be/cm/sporza/videozone/retro/retro_voorjaarsklassiekers/retro_agr/MV_110414_AGR_1991

    We would recommend once again every speaker of Dutch to watch this very well done documentary by the NOS about the feud between Raas and Post – “Ruzie in het peloton”: http://www.uitzendinggemist.net/aflevering/97131/Andere_Tijden_Sport.html

    The following YT clip deals with the 1984 Tour of Lombardy. The 10’ minutes showed interviews of the main protagonists of the newly born feud. It’s in Dutch but for English speakers from 2.47 to 3.45 you have the comments by Phil Anderson (about the rivalry) in his own language:

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  • Claudio Cappuccino

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    Re: Echoes' Cycling Biography #5: Frans Maassen
    « Reply #2 on: November 20, 2013, 09:02 »
    Great read Echoes.
    Allthough Maassen was not a favourite rider of mine - in Holland one was either pro Post [like me] or pro Raas - he actually was a great complete rider who got cheated out of big wins, like that 1993 Tour of Flanders,

    And on other days he was the victim of the Post - Raas feud:
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  • Echoes

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    Re: Echoes' Cycling Biography #5: Frans Maassen
    « Reply #3 on: November 28, 2013, 15:31 »
    Great read Echoes.
    Allthough Maassen was not a favourite rider of mine - in Holland one was either pro Post [like me] or pro Raas - he actually was a great complete rider who got cheated out of big wins, like that 1993 Tour of Flanders,

    Thanks.

    Your clip is just the promo of the doco by the NOS that I refer to several times in the article:     http://www.uitzendinggemist.net/aflevering/97131/Andere_Tijden_Sport.html I think it was very well done.

    I was too young to really 'live' the feud and I guess in Belgium we remain rather neutral but I remember the 1993 Tour of Flanders very well. At first I was rooting for Capiot who was very impressive in the Kwaremont. Then I rooted for Van Hooydonck, my other idol of the time but I was told by my grandpa that Edwig had no sprint but that didn't matter because he couldn't follow and so I was the only one in the family to root for a Dutchman.  :-x

    I might prepare other articles about riders from Raas' and Post's team, though. For a historiographer, this feud is so funny, while at that time, the fans probably didn't appreciate it but in the end drivel is inevitable and I don't really want to bore you with the same topic over and over again.

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  • Claudio Cappuccino

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    Re: Echoes' Cycling Biography #5: Frans Maassen
    « Reply #4 on: November 28, 2013, 16:59 »
    I might prepare other articles about riders from Raas' and Post's team, though. For a historiographer, this feud is so funny, while at that time, the fans probably didn't appreciate it but in the end drivel is inevitable and I don't really want to bore you with the same topic over and over again.
    Keep 'm coming. Perhaps a story on Vanderaerden or Eddy Plankaert, hint hint; my two favourite Belgian riders of all time. Both crazy as hell  :evil:

    Here in Holland the cycling fans were worrying about the feud/lack of results and meanwhile in Italy, Belgium[well, Lefevre's team], Spain some other things were happening...

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    Re: Echoes' Cycling Biography #5: Frans Maassen
    « Reply #5 on: November 28, 2013, 17:14 »
    yeh, I don't have enough knowledge to add anything to the threads (and I think it's the same for most = only few replies), but you are doing a great job with those biographies and I enjoy reading them
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  • "If this is cycling, I am a banana"

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    Re: Echoes' Cycling Biography #5: Frans Maassen
    « Reply #6 on: November 30, 2013, 07:36 »
    yeh, I don't have enough knowledge to add anything to the threads (and I think it's the same for most = only few replies), but you are doing a great job with those biographies and I enjoy reading them

    +1
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  • Of course, if this turns out someday to be the industry standard integrated handlebar-computer-braking solution then I'll eat my kevlar-reinforced aerodynamic hat.

    Larri Nov 12, 2014

    Echoes

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    Re: Echoes' Cycling Biography #5: Frans Maassen
    « Reply #7 on: December 01, 2013, 17:52 »
    Perhaps a story on Vanderaerden

    Planned !  :D

    but I first thought I'd bore the reader if I constantly talked about Belgian rider. Now I realize that the two Belgians that I covered are the most read, so perhaps I might reconsider that. Anyway thank you all for the comments. I don't mind the few replies, though if anybody has something to say or to correct, may he feel free to do it. The sole fact that my articles are read, despite their lengths and appreciated pleases me and encourages me to go on.  ;)

    Here in Holland the cycling fans were worrying about the feud/lack of results and meanwhile in Italy, Belgium[well, Lefevre's team], Spain some other things were happening...

    Again Lefevere's teams had an Italian licence. Belgian teams like Lotto, Sigma or Tulip were heavily cheated by EPO. In my article about Van Hooydonck, I quoted him saying that all Belgians who wanted to "perform" moved to Italy or Spain.
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