Paris-Roubaix: The Queen turns her back on Quick Step
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paris-Roubaix: The Queen turns her back on Quick Step

by VeloNation Press at 3:19 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Paris-Roubaix
Belgian team has worst luck ever in Hell of the North

Tom BoonenBelgian manager Patrick Lefevere's teams have been a dominant force in the cobbled Classics for the past 16 years.  Starting with Johan Museeuw's Ronde van Vlaanderen success in 1995, which was quickly followed up by the late Italian Franco Ballerini's first victory in Paris-Roubaix, the team has ridden to a total of 18 wins in the two cycling Monuments.  This year's Paris-Roubaix marked a low point for the Classics squad where bad luck reined supreme for the powerhouse team.

Quick Step's three-time Roubaix winner Tom Boonen reached the crucial Trouée d'Arenberg in good position as usual, but that's when his good fortune came to an end in the form of a mechanical.

“There’s not much to do when it comes to bad luck. In the Arenberg forest I had my first mechanical problem," Boonen explained.  "My chain got stuck between the frame and the crankset and I had to wait almost two minutes for the flagship car. I changed bikes and I was able to come back."

The Belgian, who has been chasing a fourth victory to equal the record of compatriot Roger De Vlaeminck for the past two editions, was then forced to deal with a most unusual mechanical.  "Then the incredible happened," he said.  "I was catching up to the group of the favourites after a long chase when the vibrations from the cobbles shook my water bottle loose and it ended up between the back wheel and the frame.

"The wheel suddenly was blocked, and I lost control of the bike," he continued.  "At that moment Maarten Wynants was coming up on me. He couldn’t avoid me and I ended up on the ground, hitting my knees. At that point my race was over," he said.

The Queen of the Classics had been good to Boonen over his career, but it seems it's only a matter of time before the Pavé du Nord deliver a knock out, even if you've prepared perfectly.

"In 10 years at the Roubaix I’d never had a flat and before this edition and I’d only fallen twice, in 2003 and 2009," Boonen explained.  "I was really unlucky [today]. It’s too bad because I felt really good, and after my win at the Gent–Wevelgem and my forth place in the Ronde [van Vlaanderen], it would have been nice to have another positive result. It’s not up to me to say whether I could have won or not, but I was really having a good day. Honour goes to Vansummeren, who rode an extraordinary race.”

If Quick Step's woes were confined to Boonen, they still would have had a legitimate shot at the podium.  Frenchman and co-leader Sylvain Chavanel rode to second place in last weekend's Tour of Flanders, and looked set for a solid ride in Roubaix.  Unfortunately for the team, if it wasn't for bad luck, they'd have had no luck at all.

“I got two flat tyres, both at an important moment," Chavanel said of his day over northern France.  "I tried my best to get back in there both times. Then the fall definitely took me out."

Chavanel tried to get back on terms, but the Queen of the Classics would again have to live without a French King.  "I fell hard in a left curve and did a cheese grater across the asphalt," explained the Frenchman.  "I took up the chase again anyway, but at that point there was nothing more to do."

If it were easy, victory in the Roubaix velodrome wouldn't be one of the sport's highest achievements, and Chavanel understands that as well as anyone.

"This [adversity] is also part of what the Roubaix is all about," he continued.  "You have to learn to accept these difficult times, too. Mentally I’m going to try and turn the page as fast as possible and concentrate on next Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race.”

Quick Step director Wilfried Peeters went into the day expecting to see a final showdown with Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara.  Instead, the long time domestique turned director could only look on in amazement.

“I’ve never seen such bad luck,” exclaimed Peeters after the finish. “In all our years racing we have never been so unlucky. We really weren’t ever able to express our full potential due to mechanical problems, flat tyres and falls."

Roubaix, it seems, had it in for the Belgian squad this time around.  " Boonen and Chavanel [were] especially [affected], but the other riders also were very unlucky, with lots of flats and accidents that put them out of play.”

Like so many others, the Belgian team will now have to head home and lick their wounds and look towards 2012 for success in the cobbled Classics.


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