By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix, France
The Silence-Lotto team was left fuming after staging its best ever set-up for the finale in Paris-Roubaix only to have a crash ruin their plans. Team leader Leif Hoste and his faithful lieutenant Johan Van Summeren were in the lead group of six inside the 20km to go mark when a crash by Rabobank's Juan Antonio Flecha at the entrance to the Carrefour de l'Arbre pavé sector disrupted what had until then been a nearly perfect race.
Hoste went down, Van Summeren waited, but the pair picked up Thor Hushovd on their way to the Roubaix vélodrome, and the Norwegian sprinter powered away from them for third place. The two dejected Belgians slumped down on the grass pitch on the inside of the race track, trying but failing to express their disappointment and anger in words.
A few painful moments later Hoste and Van Summeren gave each other a knock on the shoulder and Hoste spoke. "Flecha better not come near me. I'm furious since we are the suckers," Hoste raged.
"Especially since I still had Van Summeren with me and we both had something left. I was good enough to get on the podium, but possibly more than that was within my reach," Hoste claimed.
"Flecha ruins my race first of all when he wasn't pulling and acting stupidly. Then he was able to attack, and in the end it turned out he wasn't even able to steer. If someone like that slips away there's not much you can do but to ride over him; I couldn't avoid him. The fact that we're finishing fourth and fifth boosts the morale, but personally I'm sick of it," Hoste said.
The plagued Belgian team has so far been able to capture only one victory this season – thanks to Cadel Evans – and they missed out on the front group during most of the Spring Classics. The Ronde van Vlaanderen was reasonable, although a little more was expected from Hoste. Paris-Roubaix was the last chance for him to make up for some disappointing performances this year.
"Last week wasn't good but that was partly due to some mistakes. Today wasn't perfect either, but this time I was able to recover from my mistakes," Hoste said. Team manager Marc Sergeant and sponsor Marc Coucke couldn't add much more to that. "There's not much more they could've done."