US Postal Service Team Report
Van Heeswijk wins team's final race of 2004 season.
Quite appropriately, the rider who won the first race of the season for the team also won its last. Max van Heeswijk put a cap on the most successful season to-date for the United States Postal Service team, taking the Putte-Kapellen today in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>
The victory gave van Heeswijk 13 wins for the season, two more than teammate and six time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong . The victory capped of the USPS team's most successful season in terms of victories, as it won 33 internationally ranked races.
"It was a surprise result for all of us today, as Max wasn't feeling that great having suffered during Paris-Tours just a few days ago," said USPS team assistant sports manager Laurenzo Lapage. "I asked him halfway through the race how he felt, and he said he was getting better and better. It was important for him and for all of us to win our last race for the Postal Service. Also for Max, now he can go into the winter relaxed."
Teammate Stijn Devolder worked hard for van Heeswijk in the final kilometers, as nearly 30 riders prepared for a sprint finish. Devolder maintained a high speed to discourage any final attacks and van Heeswijk was able to take the sprint from race favorite, Steve de Jongh of Rabobank. Van Heeswijk placed second in last year's Putte-Kapellen.
Beginning with a pair of stage wins at the team's first event, the Ruta del Sol, back in February, van Heeswijk kept it going for nearly the entire year, winning races in every month but April, July and September. Key victories included stages at the Tour of Catalunya, Tour of Holland, Four Days of Dunkerque, Tour of Belgium and the Tour of Murcia. He also wore the leader's jersey at the Tour of Spain as well as at the Tour of Murcia and Tour of Holland.
"Finishing the season with a win in the last race of the year is a very nice way to finish," said USPS team sports manager Johan Bruyneel. "Especially as this was one of our most successful seasons in terms of wins and with Lance winning his sixth Tour de France.?
"Last year was a great year as well, winning both the Tour and the Vuelta, but this year we won many races with many different riders the whole year - from February to October. We have definitely proved we have a very deep team, contrary to what others may say, that we are focused on the Tour only. I don't agree with that as we have been performing and winning the whole year."
On van Heeswijk, Bruyneel added, "For Max, this was his best season by far. If he even had some luck in the spring, he would have won a big race as well, but for the team, he has shown his value to us all year long. It's good to have a rider like that on the team, knowing when you go to a race