The Trek Factory Racing team from top favourite Fabian Cancellara for Paris-Roubaix received a blow on Friday when they decided not to let Stijn Devolder take the start in Sunday’s race. Sports directors Dirk Demol and Luca Guercilena felt that the Belgian champion was still suffering too much from the injuries sustained in two heavy crashes in last Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, and is not fit enough to race. Devolder will be replaced by Dutch rider Boy van Poppel.
“If I would take the decision on my own of course I would take the start. Sometimes people behind you have to take decisions. Sometimes you can’t think clear in these situations. Of course in the recon I suffered like a pig. If it would be like this on Sunday I would do it also but we would not know how the result would be. For me it’s very hard not to take the start,” Devolder said in the team hotel on Friday afternoon.
“For me it was a very hard moment when Luca and Dirk came to talk with me this afternoon, telling me they took the decision not to let me start on Sunday. For me the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are the two most important races of the year of course. I lived towards next Sunday already for months, but because of the hard crash in the Tour of Flanders I can’t take the start and that’s very hard for me.”
After doing a reconnaissance ride on the cobbles on Thursday it was obvious for sports director Dirk Demol that he had to protect Devolder from himself and take him out of the team. Devolder sustained serious injuries on his left side and some damage on his right side after smashing into Klaas Lodewyck (BMC) during the Tour of Flanders.
“It’s Luca and me who take the decision not to let him start on Sunday," Demol said. "We have the team but also Fabian. We have to take the responsibility in the race and we need seven fit riders to support him. After what I’ve seen yesterday on the bike... sometimes we have to take the decision for a rider. It was one of the hardest things to do for me as a sports director to tell a rider that he will not start on Sunday but I know what I am doing. He’ll be replaced by Boy van Poppel. He’s already done Roubaix. He’s a good team player and team rider.”
“On Monday Stijn was riding a bit, Tuesday too but on Wednesday I was already a bit concerned that he did only two hours. His whole body still felt sore. He decided to the reconnaissance anyway but on the first cobbled section I already knew it was not possible to ride on Sunday. He’s such a tough guy and in such a good condition and he really wanted to be there, so he decided to continue the full recon. Unfortunately we saw at the end of the day that it was almost impossible to ride on the cobbles, far from racing on the cobbles and participating in Paris-Roubaix. We have too much respect for him, knowing how much work he did for it so that’s why we gave it another 24 hours to make a decision,” Demol said.
Team leader Fabian Cancellara regretted losing his lieutenant but stressed out that the team was professional enough to deal with the loss. “It’s not fun to lose a rider like him who worked very hard last month to get to his best form. The team is professional and discussed a lot before taking this decision. With his replacement we’ll be able to ride the race we want and do the maximum we can,” Cancellara said shortly after Dirk Demol announced the news on Friday.