Not as hyped as the young Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) who was the revelation at the Tour of Flanders, but 24-year-old Yves Lampaert (Etixx-QuickStep) turned out to be the best young Belgian rider in Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. Lampaert featured in the group of seven that sprinted for the victory in the vélodrome of Roubaix. He led out the sprint for teammate Zdenek Stybar and then settled for seventh place.
"Roubaix is a race that suits me really well for the future. I rode it in the U23 category and placed second. I love riding the cobbles, as much as that is possible. I know that I've got the capabilities for these races too. This is a race of endurance. It suits me more than Flanders," a mud-clad Lampaert said while standing on the inside of the track.
Lampaert's performance late in the race was even more impressive knowing that he had been working for his team straight from the start.
"I had to ride in the peloton to control the early breakaway move. Then I also brought teammates to the front. It cost me some energy, pulling from so early on, but still being there in the end, of course that’s nice."
A bright future is lying ahead for Lampaert, however, he preferred not to say whether or not he could one day win the Monument.
"Time will tell. I prefer not to make big predictions right now. It can only make one disappointed in the end. I prefer to show what I'm capable of with my pedals. I'll continue working like I'm doing now. I'm doing well. I'm having a lot of fun in the team and just regret it so much that we didn't win," Lampaert said, and he sounded emotional when he said those words.
"It's probably because I'm tired," he then laughed. "I have to be satisfied about my race but I feel really sorry for the team that we didn't get the victory. We deserved it really bad. We took the race by its horns already in the pavé sectors before the feed zone. We tried to make a selection but there was a bit too much headwind there. We're really riding well. In every race we're on the podium. There's no other team like us."
There was a moment during the race, however, that the young domestique on Etixx-QuickStep's star-studded Spring Classics team left his role as a helper and suddenly attacked the large lead group at barely 12 kilometres from Roubaix.
He seemed to be headed towards a sprint for the victory, and only Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) marked his bold move. Later on, eventual winner John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) bridged up thus making Lampaert's chances for a sprint victory much smaller.
Lampaert no longer co-operated in the breakaway move as his team leader Stybar was in the chase group. At less than five kilometres from the vélodrome, Stybar bridged up and from there Lampaert morphed back into the supporting role that he had been for most of the race. He led out the sprint in which Stybar finished as runner-up and then settled for the last position in the group.
"Greg and I quickly had a big gap. Then we heard that Degenkolb was coming up. We were not going slow and when he bridged up he took over with a fierce pull. I quickly figured that I had to watch out," he said.
There was one thing that flashed through his mind. "Don't pull," Lampaert said. “Stybar was behind us. Greg and Degenkolb are just faster than me, certainly Degenkolb. Stybar was coming. It's too bad those three others bridged up, too."
Lampaert repeated one more time how pleased his was at Etixx-QuickStep. He only regretted he was scheduled to race the Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday.
"I'm perfectly coached by Tom Steels. I receive a lot of confidence. It's going well. Now I've still got to do the Brabantse Pijl, which will be harder to leave behind my mark."