Hushovd and Hammond fly the flag in Roubaix with style
Despite an inauspicious Classics campaign thus far, Cervélo TestTeam surprised in yesterday's Paris-Roubaix, with Thor Hushovd and Roger Hammond taking second and fourth respectively.
It was the type of performance many expected of the Professional Continetal team when the Spring beckoned; however injuries to German riders Heinrich Haussler and Andreas Klier threatened to derail its campaign, with Hushovd and Hammond saving face courtesy of their brace of top five finishes.
British riders Hammond (pictured right) and Jeremy Hunt were instrumental in the success, as the former explained after the finish. "In the team meeting we agreed we needed someone in the break," said Hammond.
"There were four of our guys jumping around and they did a great job and then Jeremy Hunt got in the break and we were nice and relaxed, except in the back of my mind this meant we were with the big guys and we had to go when they went. Fortunately with the help of all the other guys, we were protected and that meant Thor and I were able to follow when they really went.
"Then I was hoping to open up the race early and make Boonen and Cancellera commit. But Cancellera was isolated, he was on his own in the front so I started attacking early, but they also started following me really early."
Hammond admitted that Cancellara's attack effectively relegated the rest of the field to second immediately; this was reflected in the way he rode after the Swiss rider fled with about 50km remaining.
"Cancellera was unbelievable, he was on a different planet, and we realised we had to ride for second directly. So we started racing for second once he was on his own. I mean to get second and fourth is not bad really, if you take Cancellera out of the equation we got first and third.
"I think we cancelled the bad luck that we had last month. It as really nice to see the team performing like we know they can," added directeur sportif...
Danish champion fears a long pause and serious problems
Matti Breschel had been considered an upset favourite for many going into Paris-Roubaix, but the 25-year-old had to abandon with knee pains as teammate Fabian Cancellara went on to the solo win.
He had to fall back during the race when his right knee locked up and he couldn't pedal. “There was some trouble en route,” he told the Danish news agency Ritzau. “I took a lot of acetaminophen but that didn't help one damned bit, and by Arenberg forest my knee had locked.
“It is serious, I think,” he continued. Breschel will return home to Denmark for examinations, and contemplated the possibility that he would face a long race break. “I hoped that it would hold but it got worse and worse.
“As a cyclist you always have respect for the knees because they are somewhat fragile things. And right now I'm a damned bit nervous.”
Om the team website, the Danish road champion admitted, “I am actually a bit worried about it sine I have never experienced pain like this.”
Breschel is one of Saxo Bank's main Spring Classics riders. He won Dwars door Vlaanderen – Waregem, was eighth in Gent-Wevelgem and 15th in the Tour of Flanders.
AG2R La Mondiale rider top French finisher in Roubaix
Sébastien Hinault says he was "very proud" to be France's best finisher in this year's Paris-Roubaix, taking ninth place ahead of riders such as Grégory Rast, George Hincapie and 1997 champion Frédéric Guesdon.
The AG2R La Mondiale rider, who was with the group of top favourites chasing race winner Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), suffered a hunger knock in the finale and admitted that he could have placed even higher.
"I was hoping to be among the top 20, top 10 if everything went right... but today, even a top five placing was possible," Hinault told AFP at the finish in Roubaix's velodrome. "I was in the top group with Boonen, Flecha, Hushovd, Pozzato... With 20 kilometres to go, I had a bit of a hunger knock. When Flecha attacked, I got dropped. I was scared that guys would come back from behind, but then I managed to score a placing in the top ten - not too bad!"
Hinault, who is not related to five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault, even attacked out of the group of favourites with 55 kilometres to go, together with Leif Hoste (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil). Shortly afterwards, the eventual winner Cancellara made his move and rocketed past them.
"I saw him up close when he passed us. He was about three or four kilometres an hour faster than us on the cobbles. We didn't even try to follow him. The only one who tried was Leukemans - he did 300 metres and then he exploded," said the Frenchman about the Swiss powerhouse.
"He had so much horsepower, they don't call him Spartacus for nothing. It's impressive! He's really born for these kind of races. He already showed off this kind of grand numéro in the Tour of Flanders..."
Hinault saw his personal Paris-Roubaix best as another very good result for French cycling. "We are starting to improve. At the Tour of Flanders, there were five or six of us in the top 25. Here, I'm ninth....
Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) put up a gutsy ride to finish seventh in Paris-Roubaix, 3:46 behind Fabian Cancellara. But more than the result, Pozzato wanted to remember fellow Italian Franco Ballerini by winning the special prize created by race organizers ASO and awarded to the first Italian to make it to the Roubaix velodrome.
Pozzato raced wearing an all-black kit and crossed the line in the velodrome holding up a small photograph of when Ballerini rode Paris-Roubaix in 2001 for the last time in his career and unzipped his jersey to show the words 'Merci Roubaix' written on his t-shirt as he finished the race.
Pozzato was forced to miss the Tour of Flanders after being struck by a stomach virus and the illness meant he was no longer a favorite for victory. He knew he would struggle after 200km of racing and was just hoping to finish in the top ten.
Pozzato could hardly stand up in the centre of the velodrome before he collected the special Ballerini cobblestone. He had perhaps gone deeper and suffered more than in any race he had ever ridden and even won during his career.
"I really wanted that special prize. I'm going to keep at home as my way of remember Franco," Pozzato said.
"He was an important person for me. I wish I could have remembered him by winning but I couldn't do any better. I was actually surprised by how well I managed to do after everything I've been through in the last ten days. I got through the last 30km on sheer determination."
"I tried to mark Cancellara for as long as I could. But when he went, everyone else looked at each other and nobody really had the legs to go after him. I think Boonen was a bit stunned that Cancellara attacked where he did, he probably didn’t think he'd attack so far out. But we all know that Fabian has a huge, huge engine and can do things like that."
Saxo Bank boss hoping for a call from a new sponsor
Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis doesn't often show his emotions but even he couldn't stop smiling as he watched Fabian Cancellara climb on the podium in the centre of the Roubaix velodrome and lift the winner's cobblestone prize.
Riis carefully directed Cancellara during the race from the passenger seat of the Saxo Bank team car. He revealed that he told Cancellara to attack when he did, after noticing that Tom Boonen was too far down the line of riders.
Cancellara trusted his boss, didn't look back and opened up the after-burners, even though there was still 50 kilometres left to race. Before Boonen even realised what had happened and moved out of the line to look up the road, Cancellara had already opened a gap that would have been impossible for him to close.
"I told him to attack on the radio. As soon as I saw that Boonen was not on his wheel, I said: 'Now you go' ," Riis explained.
"A rider like him, when he goes, it's because he goes to win, not for fun. I knew it was the right moment and that he was riding to win the race. Otherwise I'd have stopped him immediately."
Pressed by several Belgian journalists, Riis could not resist having a dig at Tom Boonen.
"Boonen is strong but Cancellara is better. He's great," he said with total admiration.
"Boonen made mistakes during the race. How many? Two can be too many. I think if you want to win this race you have to stay calm, relaxed and not stressed. Then go when you have to go.
"The problem for the others is that Fabian goes fast, even on his own. We know that and it's a bonus to have. We know he can go from far away, too, so we use this as part of our strategy. Not many riders can do that."
Hoping for a call from a sponsor
Saxo Bank will end their sponsorship of Riis' team at the end of the season. There are rumours that BMC would like to sign Cancellara and the Schleck brothers. The Schlecks are also reported...
The top of the UCI's world rankings remains the same, with Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez maintaining the overall lead along with his country and Caisse d'Epargne team at the top of the three leaderboards. But after Paris-Roubaix and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the difference between the top five riders has narrowed to just 22 points.
Paris-Roubaix winner Fabian Cancellara jetted up to fifth from 10th to net a season total of 200 points, while Basque tour runner-up Alejandro Valverde edged out the Swiss sensation by one point to occupy the fourth spot.
Tom Boonen stayed second but moved to within 6 points of Sanchez' lead, while Katusha's Joaquin Rodriguez stayed in third by adding to his points tally with his fourth place overall in the Basque tour.
Other big movers for the week were Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky): third in Paris-Roubaix pushed him from 84th to 27th, RadioShack's Chris Horner, who entered the rankings at 13th after winning the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) who jumped to seventh thanks to his second in Paris-Roubaix.
Spain continues to dominate the nations rankings, far ahead of Belgium and Italy, while Caisse d'Epargne has a solid lead in the teams classification over Katusha and Cervelo.
Lars Boom and Joost Posthuma were Rabobank's leaders going into Paris-Roubaix, but neither of them even finished the race. Only three riders from the Dutch team came to the finish line within the time limit, with the best being Maarten Tjallingii in 31st place, at 7:05.
"That's how Paris-Roubaix is," said directeur sportif Nico Verhoeven on the team's website. "It's a game of setbacks. Some of them you can correct and some you can't."
The race started out well for the team. "The first two hundred kilometres were indeed as we wanted." It had Rick Flens and Tom Leezer in the front group to help control things. Sebastian Langefeld punctured in Wallers. "He ultimately was able to come back to the front group, but the finale had been started and the contenders were already gone."
Tjallingii was eager to jump with the leading group, but his derailleur broke "and there was not a bike change immediately, because at the time we were not able to ride behind him. Then your chance is instantly gone."
He continued, "Had Maarten not broken his derailleur and had gotten into the Boonen group, then a top ten finish was possible and we would have been in the picture. He would have had a good classification and it would have been a good race for the team. He fell back with a lousy time and missed the finale, so he wasn't in the picture. But that's how things go."
Boom was making his Paris-Roubaix debut. "As in Flanders, Lars Boom was good the first two hundred kilometres. He will have his opportunities," Verhoeven said, but indicated that this 259km race was simply too long for him at this point.
Italian back on track after experiencing leg problems
Former Italian champion Giovanni Visconti was on the attack on two occasions in the last ten kilometres of stage 2 during the Presidential Tour of Turkey today. The characteristics of the finale couldn't prevent him from being brought back by HTC-Columbia but it was interesting to notice that André Greipel himself reacted when the ISD-Neri rider made his first move while his teammates did the job behind other riders. "That means he considered me dangerous," Visconti said after dinner in Bodrum.
"I'm happy to be able to attack again," he told Cyclingnews. "A problem with my leg forced me to pull out of Tirreno-Adriatico and the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali but fortunately a physiotherapist brought me back to my world. I was relieved that it wasn't the iliac artery. The heat here in Turkey also favours me. I was satisfied with my prologue (11th), it wasn't a course for light riders like me, it was for cyclists over 70 kg. For sure my morale is better now because at the time of Milan-San Remo I wasn't competitive. I'm back on track."
Visconti confirmed he'll again go on the attack before the end of the Tour of Turkey on Sunday while his exuberant and enthusiastic directeur sportif Luca Scinto got excited enough to imagine him winning the overall classification. ISD-Neri already won Le Tour de Langkawi with José Rujano in March but that wasn't enough to convince the organisers of the Giro d'Italia to select them again this year.
"I was happy that our team got invited last year to all the races organised by La Gazzetta dello Sport although it was only our first year of existence," Visconti said. "I feel sad that we didn't get the call this year but it's not the end of the world. I'd love to do the Giro of course but also as a neo-pro I stayed at home during the Giro (2005-2006). I'm able to...