Could this be the year for Dutchman, Maarten Den Bakker? Ok, he's just turned 39, a veteran of the peloton in his 18th season and riding for the low key Dutch team, Skil-Shimano.
He plans to retire at the end of this season and I bet Den Bakker would love to win one last big race. Like this Sunday's Amstel Gold Race. Ten years ago, at the 1998 Amstel Gold Race in his native Holland he almost ... did win! After some 6 hours of riding, Swiss Rolf Järmann and Den Bakker sprinted for the finish line. With Järmann just eclipsing Den Bakker at the line!
It maybe wishful thinking, but a man can dream, right? Den Bakker says, "My best years are gone. I don't have any problem with training because I like to train. Simply, I still love cycling. I use my experience to get some results and to help out the younger guys." Maybe he had his chance ten years ago, but with that positive attitude and thinking I can envision him doing something magical at Sunday's Amstel Gold Race.
Den Bakker's in the position of guiding his younger teammates into breaks or attacks. And, he has a group of young hopefuls at the ready; Clement Lhotellerie(Fra), Fumiyuki Beppu(Jpn) and Tom Veelers(Ned).
"I recently celebrated my birthday with a small beer in the hotel bar," he said at the Tour of Qatar in January.
I bet it was an Amstel Gold!
Den Bakker(left) just missing out on an 1998 Amstel 'Gold' from Rolf Järmann! www.amstelgoldrace.nl
(top): The veteran all mic'd up and ready for this Sunday's Amstel.