Five weeks after breaking his hand in a collision with a car during a training ride, Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) returned to competition at the Tour of Flanders. The Spaniard immediately managed to be competitive by finishing in the group that sprinted for fourth place. One week later he’s heading into Paris-Roubaix as one of the outsiders to beat top favorite Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quick Step).
On Saturday afternoon Flecha joined his teammates at the team presentation in front of the château of Compiègne where the start of the legendary race will be held on Sunday morning. The Spaniard didn’t have high expectations as he pointed out that he was more than satisfied just to be able to start the race.
“My hand is going better. Every day it’s improving but it still hurts a lot when I pull on the handlebars. I noticed that I’m less in pain when I lower the position of my hand. Anyway, it’s only five weeks since I sustained the injury which is quite recent and it’s certainly not 100 per cent,” Flecha said.
While Flecha was sidelined the rest of the pavé specialists battled out several races.
Two weeks ago, while Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma - Quick Step) won Dwars door Vlaanderen, Flecha left his home near Barcelona for the first time to ride his bike on the roads. “Every unevenness in the road made me shout out the pain so I quickly returned to the rollers,” Flecha told Het Nieuwsblad. “I was pleasantly surprised with my Ronde performance but it was bloody hard. Especially the first hours and when hitting the first pavé, it hurt a lot.”
Though extremely demanding the course in Paris-Roubaix might favor Flecha as the long pavé sections are more of a long effort than short stints up a cobbled climb like the Tour of Flanders often features.
“To me Boonen is the big favorite. At the same time there’s a lot of other favorites too. There’s a lot of riders with a chance. Maybe I’m one of those riders,” Flecha said. When asked how to beat Boonen the 34 year-old Spaniard didn’t surprise. “I don’t know the secret. It’s pretty difficult because he’s a really fast guy. He doesn’t need to make it a hard race and destroy the bunch like Fabian Cancellara. He can win in many different ways.”