Belgian rider Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) impressively defended the blue and white colours of the Blanco team in front of the 111th edition of Paris-Roubaix. Vanmarcke was beaten in a two-man sprint by Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack). The team's dedicated leader Lars Boom made the first cut, but then fell short in the following selection and finished 14th at the vélodrome in Roubaix. Despite failing to live up to high expectations, a dust-covered Boom applauded the performance of Vanmarcke.
"It's super good from Sep. I hear that the gap was really small which makes it really sad for him. He rode a great race and I'm really happy for him," Boom said.
Coming into the race it seemed like Boom would be the dedicated team leader. The 2008 cyclo-cross world champion fell just short of a podium result in the 2012 edition of Paris-Roubaix, and realized he had a realistic chance for glory in the Queen of classics.
Vanmarcke was a bit off the radar as he struggled with a knee injury sustained at Tirreno-Adriatico last month. On Sunday both Blanco-riders featured in the decisive breakaway of 13 riders which escaped on the cobbles of Mons-en-Pévèle with less than 50km to go.
"I was well positioned in the race and felt good until a certain moment when suddenly my best forces were gone and that was a pity. I wasn't super today," Boom told Omroep Brabant.
Vanmarcke attacked the breakaway with Sebastian Langeveld (Orica-Greenedge), while Boom protected the move and marked Cancellara his wheel. Cancellara didn't seem worried, and started chatting with his directeur sportif at the team car while more riders bridged up towards the leaders. With 31km to go the chase group merely consisted of Cancellara, Boom, Bernhard Eisel (Sky) and Nikki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quickstep). Suddenly Cancellara took off where the others didn't expect it, not on the cobbles but on the asphalted wide roads in Louvil.
"Eisel suddenly swerved to the side. He was on Cancellara's wheel," Boom said. Clearly the Austrian failed to hold it and opted to move aside, hoping Boom or Terpstra would be able to bring him back to the front group. Boom tried to get back to Cancellara but he eventually bowed his head, too. "I wasn't able to get back on Cancellara his wheel. At that moment my wheel was broken and I needed to get another wheel."
While Dutch champion Terpstra blasted back towards Cancellara and the other leaders on his own, while Boom and Eisel dropped back into a chase group which was out of contention for the victory. Three Blanco-riders featured in it, with Boom, Maarten Wynants and Maarten Tjallingii. The group wasn't too far back but not close enough to threaten the leaders.
"Once there it wasn't running smooth anymore. Then it's over," Boom said. Eventually the group entered the vélodrome while Cancellara beat their teammate in the sprint. Fifty seconds later the race was over. "This is Paris-Roubaix. Every year it can be like that, but one year I can have a super day and that's what I'm banking on for the next years. It's a pity that I didn't finish any closer but that's the way it is. I'll go for it again next year."