Paris-Roubaix: Flecha gets top ten result to show for daylong efforts
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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Paris-Roubaix: Flecha gets top ten result to show for daylong efforts

by Kyle Moore at 6:54 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Roubaix
Leukemans one of many to suffer ill-timed bad luck

Juan Antonio FlechaJuan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) has had better days at Paris-Roubaix, including several podium finishes, but the Spaniard had a good day overall in the Hell of the North on Sunday, and came in with an 8th place finish to show for it. In his first season with the Dutch squad, Flecha was Vacansoleil’s top finisher of the day, followed closely behind in the same chase group by team-mate Bjorn Leukemans, who was 16th.

Flecha fought all day to be in the front group as accelerations continued to split it, while Leukemans fought off bad luck in the race finale just to finish in the first group behind race winner Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard) and Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco).

On an aggressive day, Flecha usually let others be the aggressors, and better represented teams such as Omega Pharma-Quick Step did much of the animating. But every time the lead group was whittled down or subject to an attack, Flecha was there, usually with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), to chase it down.

Flecha was present and accounted for when Cancellara made his first move with more than 50km to go. Later, after Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) went away with Vanmarcke, Sebastian Langeveld (Orica-GreenEdge), and Damien Gaudin (Europcar), Flecha eventually pulled his group, including Cancellara, back to the fore. After Cancellara and Vanmarcke were gone, and after Vandenbergh and team-mate Zdenek Stybar were done in by pedestrians, Flecha was the first to bridge up to Stybar, giving himself a chance at a podium place.

This would eventually go to Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Niki Terpstra, eight seconds ahead of Flecha.

The tenacious Spaniard didn’t have the legs to win but made the most of his chances, as he explained afterward.

“I gave it my all. I kept going in order to place well,” he said. “When I caught Stybar, I was hoping to be able to bridge up to the two men up front as well. It wasn’t such a big gap, after all. If you don’t try, you’re sure to fail.”

On the other hand, Leukemans was not seen with the leaders for much of the day. The Belgian made a late comeback to a front group before crashing out of it close to the finish, and then catching back on just shy of the Roubaix velodrome. According to a Vacansoleil press release, the Belgian had gotten a wheel change and was being paced back toward the front by two team-mates, when all three were involved in a crash.

“Bad luck never happens at a good time, but this was the absolute worst time for it,” Leukemans bemoaned afterward. “And to make things worse, we fell on top of a flower pot. The group had split in two on a cobbled section, and I knew I had the legs to be with Flecha’s group. Now I can only hope that I didn’t injure myself, like last year after the Tour of Flanders.

“First I will recover, and then hopefully I will be in the same form for Fleche Brabançonne, Amstel Gold Race, and Liege. Or even a little better.”


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