Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) stopped on the far side of the Roubaix velodrome and slumped over his handlebars; gasping for breath and trying to come to terms with the fact that victory had slipped through his fingers.
The Norwegian had ridden a near perfect ride despite the uncertainty and inherent risk of Paris-Roubaix. He was in front when a crash split the race and left Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara behind, he managed to avoid the crashes when Team Sky riders went down on two different corners and even had the strength to make the decisive attack along with Mat Hayman, Tom Boonen, Ian Stannard and Sep Vanmarcke.
He was considered the fastest rider for an eventual sprint in the velodrome but the late attacks weakened him and he used his final drops of precious energy to close some gaps and follow attacks. He was distanced by Hayman, Boonen and then Vanmarcke in the final two kilometres but got back up to the trio on the final lap of the track with Stannard. Cruelly, he lacked a final kick to fight for victory on the final banking and finished fifth at three seconds back.
“That’s the best I’ve ever done but it didn’t go perfectly,” he said in English after responding patiently to the Norwegian media.
“I was satisfied with my race. I tried to follow the moves and hoped that someone on the final attack would get dropped. It didn’t happen and then I was to tired.
“Shit happens in Paris-Roubaix but I managed to stay out of trouble all day and I was good until the last five or ten kilometres, then I was on the limit. But I think everyone was on the limit. After that I was just hoping to stay in the group.”
The Dimension Data team came into Paris-Roubaix as an outsider but knew that Boasson Hagen had a chance to take on the big favourites like Sagan, Cancellara and Boonen. Boasson Hagen was guided by Britain’s Roger Hammond from the team car. He finished third in the 2004 edition of Paris-Roubaix and then fourth in 2010. He was rightly proud of the team and Boasson Hagen’s performance.
“We came here to be part of the bike race and I don’t think anybody can deny us that,” Hammond said post race.
"The team as a whole was great. Nic Dougall was a bit sick today and he still rode his heart out to keep Eddy up there in the beginning. Cavendish was part of a dangerous 24-rider move and then Reinardt got into the main break and he did an incredible ride, so we were always able to remain calm.
“Eddy pulled out one hell of a ride today and when you get into the final like that as a sprinter you always going to be clutching at straws. Eddy was always going to be in a difficult position in that final. With the national champion's jersey on his shoulders and after having such a good start to his year he was always going to be a marked man.
"It was a pity but he has broken into the top 10 now and showed we can win Paris-Roubaix one day.”
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