Cervélo TestTeam's depleted Classics squad was able to find some comfort from their performance at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, but know they will face an uphill battle to be ready for next Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.
Cervélo's best-placed rider at Flanders was Roger Hammond, who sprinted to a seventh place finish in Meerbeke. In contrast, the team's captain for the race, Thor Hushovd, finished 57th, after fading in the latter stages of the 262-kilometre event. Although the Norwegian finished well down the day's result sheet, sports director Jean-Paul van Poppel said it hadn't come as a complete surprise.
"The team did an excellent job. They brought [Hushovd] up to the Oude Kwaremont in very good position. Everything went well, and then at one point, 50 kilometres from the finish, he was empty, the power was no longer there," said Van Poppel. "We always try to stay positive, but you know that he lost a lot of competition and I think that is what broke him in the last 50.
"He was fresh the last couple of days. He was feeling really good in the race and up to 200 kilometres there wasn't a single problem, but when the finale came he was empty."
Hushovd's performance throughout the first 200 kilometres of Flanders was indeed consistent with his Classics reputation, but after several weeks of illness he was unable to follow the pace of his rivals over the race's latter bergs. With a week to go until his major Classics objective, Paris-Roubaix, Van Poppel was optimistic that Hushovd's first race since his early abandon two weeks ago at E3 Prijs-Harelbeke, could be the trigger for a return to form.
"Next Sunday is perhaps Thor's most important race of the year, we hope we get the team well organised and fit," he said. "I have to believe we can. I know Thor gets his form really fast and you see he's not really down [about today]. He knows he's running out of time, but we have the hope that he will be up there on Sunday."
Cervélo will also be hoping Gabriel Rasch can make a return to support his compatriot Hushovd at Paris-Roubaix. Rasch's name was added to the team's already substantial injury list after damaging his elbow in a crash on Sunday. While he was later cleared of any broken bones, the injury could threaten his participation at Roubaix.
"It looks like it never stops - call it 'bad luck'. Today, it was Gaba again. His elbow looks really awful, it was bleeding all over and after half an hour it was still bleeding," said Van Poppel after the race. "It was twice its normal size, so we let him stop because it was not responsible to let him go on. Of course it's another crash and it takes a lot of energy out of you."
Regardless of their unlucky spring so far, Van Poppel said the team remained positive about the remainder of the Classics period.
"You have to work with what you've got. The team did an excellent job today, Thor did the maximum he could and like I said we can explain why it didn't happen – there's reasons for why we're not there where we should be, so we're not really disappointed," he said. "You get a little bit tired when, again, somebody crashes. We're running out of time, I realise that, but we still have hope for next week 100 percent.
"We're sitting in the corner, but we know we can get out of it with one good result, and it could be next week."