Despite an eventful Paris-Roubaix race, Omega Pharma–Quick Step's Tom Boonen had to leave the Roubaix Velodrome empty handed after teammate Niki Terpstra attacked for a solo win.
Ahead of Sunday's race, four-time winner Boonen was one of the favourites, and it was not lack of effort that ultimately rendered the Belgian unsuccessful.
Boonen blew the race apart when he attacked into the headwind with 65 kilometres to go, knowing there were a gruelling 13 cobblestone sectors to come.
20km from the finish Boonen's breakaway group was caught by a chasing group but the Belgian – struggling on the cobbled sections – managed to hang on to the leading pack.
Ultimately, Boonen was unable to muster the strength to win what would have been a historic fifth P-R title and was left with a disappointing tenth-place finish. He took some consolation in his teammate's victory, according to cyclingnews.com.
"Of course, if you're trying so hard yourself, it's only normal that at first you're a bit disappointed, then after that I'm happy too. It was a day to forget quickly, but in the end we've won. I couldn't imagine that we would have lost the race. That would've been completely ridiculous," Boonen said.
The Belgian claimed his team had had to rely on luck as Terpstra is unlikely to have won in a sprint finish against any of the others in the leading group.
"We were very lucky because if someone would have joined him, we would have lost,” Boonen said. “Niki is very strong late in the race, but you need some luck, too. He already did a lot of work behind the group. I'm happy we won because otherwise there would've been a lot of complaints."
Boonen was largely unfazed by the headwind but blamed his bad luck and BMC's racing tactics when explaining why he was unable to win the tough one-day classic.
"The headwind hurts but behind you it also makes the group lose speed easily. We had the bad luck that BMC was constantly well organised and chasing their own rider [Thor] Hushovd. I can't understand that," Boonen said before adding that he "had never so much bad luck as this year".
The Belgian had been forced to switch bike early in the race and required 10km to first catch up with the peloton and then move to the front. Once at the finish, he did not have the legs to keep up.
After some excellent racing in the previous spring classics, Belkin's Sep Vanmarcke was also considered one of the pre-race favourites for the P-R.
The 25-year-old again showed his classics credentials as he finished in the leading group together with the likes of Cancellara and Peter Sagan. Terpstra's burst, however, ended the Belgian's hopes of a top finish.
Vanmarcke took the initiative a few times but was outnumbered by Omega Pharma – QuickStep and could not escape in the strong headwind. The result leaves him without a win in the spring classics.
I'm disappointed because I really wanted a win in one of these races. I've been battling along in every race but it didn't work out," Vanmarcke said while insisting that the disappointment was incomparable to last year's when he was beaten by Cancellara in the sprint.
"It's different. Last year I rode for the win and I was very disappointed because I felt I could've won. Now I felt I was stronger but I wasn't able to ride for the win. I had very good legs today to go very far, to ride for the win and I was actually able to do that for a long time but there was too much headwind."
Vanmarcke will now take a break before returning to racing at the Uno-X tour of Norway at the end of May. He will also compete in the Baloise Tour of Belgium and the Tour de Suisse before the Tour de France where he will be supporting Bauke Mollema.
The fifth stage of this year's TdF could be an opportunity for the Belgian as it is comparable to the Paris-Roubaix.
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