Omega Pharma-QuickStep came close to turning its classics bad luck around today. It had Paris-Roubaix seemingly in hand with the numbers, but saw it all fall apart on the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector.
“We had a very strong team, probably the best team in the race, but to be the best team is not enough to win, you need some luck. The luck was not with us, like the whole year,” CEO Patrick Lefevere told Cycling Weekly. “I can also say that the team did great doing the race without a real leader.”
Lefevere stood outside the team’s bus, where one by one he saw his fallen warriors return from the Hell of the North. Niki Terpstra placed third, Zdenek Stybar sixth, Sylvain Chavanel 19th and Stijn Vandenbergh 20th. It could have been a lot better.
Last year, Omega Pharma ruled the two cobbled monuments, Flanders and Roubaix, with Tom Boonen. Boonen crashed in Flanders and fractured his rib, leaving the team to fight on without a big leader this year. It did well, very well, considering.
Gert Steegmans put himself in the escape and Vandenbergh forced the major split in the race. At one point, the team had four men in the lead group with Vandenbergh, Chavanel, Stybar and Niki Terpstra. However, it unravelled.
“The team was very strong [overall in this classics campaign], but unfortunately we couldn’t win, a lot of it due to bad luck,” Lefevere continued. “Last year, we did nothing special and everything came on its own, and this year everything went wrong by on its own.”
Terpstra lost ground when Cancellara attacked in the Bourghelles à Wannehain sector, but a mechanical problem forced Chavanel out. Vandenbergh and Stybar, one by one, clipped a fan as they rode in the Carrefour de l’Arbre’s gutter. Vandenbergh crashed and Stybar, though able to stay upright, lost ground.
It was the worst timing. Stybar looked brilliant and able to follow Cancellara and Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) to the velodrome, where he was favoured to win the sprint.
“Before you know,” Lefevere added, “You’re 10 seconds behind. Vanmarcke helped Fabian very well and they were gone.”
“I was actually in a perfect situation. I had Stijn in front, so I didn’t have to pull, I was just following Cancellara. And I had really perfect legs,” Stybar told journalists in the velodrome’s infield.
“I hit him with my shifter, and I nearly crashed. And before I put my feet back in the pedals I lost, like – I just lost contact with the wheel and it was impossible to close the gap.”
Stybar shared Lefevere’s view, that it was just a perfect job given the circumstances, but that they had more than their share of Roubaix misfortune.