August 6, 2016

Maastricht: A Taste For Excellence

Dutchman Michael Boogerd has probably never seen a fleck of broken glass that hasn’t triggered a nightmare of memories from a cold, wet, October day 14 years ago. Four kilometers from the base of the of the Cauberg, the signature ascent of the 1998 Road Race World Championships in the small Dutch village of Valkenburg, and six kilometers from the finish line of what looked liked a rainbow jersey for the host nation’s hero Boogerd’s chance of victory slowly drained from his rear tire. A slow leak ruined his title hopes on a day when he surely looked and felt the strongest of the elite breakaway. Alongside Belgian Peter Van Petegem, Italian Michele Bartoli, the Swiss duo of Oskar Camezind and Niki Aebersold and a reborn Lance Armstrong, Boogerd screamed for the neutral service car as he frantically flashed his arm in the air. Boogerd tried in vain, but he eventually crossed the finish line in sixth place behind fourth placed Armstrong and fifth placed Aebersold. From the podium, as silver medalist Van Petegem stared emptily out across the crowd and bronze medalist Bartoli brooded and sulked, Camezind gladly accepted the gold medal and rainbow jersey of what would become an artificial victory, admitting years later to doping and exiting the sport in disgrace. As reporters shoved their microphones into Boogerd’s dirt covered face, his mechanic tapped him on the shoulder and held out the fleck of glass he had pulled from his tire. Victory, alas, eluded him by the tiniest of margins. And while a victory in the Amstel Gold Race on the same roads the following spring may have temporarily softened Boogerd’s nightmare, a world title eluded him.And unless you’re Italian, the odds of winning the world championships on home soil are seemingly as small as a fleck of glass. Read More 



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