Patrick Lefevere has quite a record when it comes to racing the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix and the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team manager was doubtless hoping for a record-breaking fourth win in the Ronde for his team leader Tom Boonen.
After a troubled build-up, the Belgian champion quickly crashed out of the race, sustaining injuries which also sideline him for Paris-Roubaix. The team’s second leader Sylvain Chavanel wasn’t able to take over the reins in Boonen’s absence. Despite showing excellent form a few days ago by winning the Three Days of De Panne, the Frenchman was blown backwards when eventual winner Fabian Cancellara attacked on the Oude Kwaremont.
“The team rode well but once again it was proven that you have to have team leaders who can finish the job and other very good riders. The guys didn’t ride badly but I think Sylvain is our first man in thirteenth place. Well, thirteenth equals zero [WorldTour] points. At the end of the year those points weigh in massively. These are the races in which we have to do it,” Lefevere said, calculating his loss.
Lefevere didn’t hold back and figured Chavanel would have been better off anticipating the attack from Cancellara by going along with an earlier breakaway move which included Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol), who eventually went on to finish third.
“I haven’t spoken with him yet but I think he got the most out of it. If those two take off then you have to be on their wheel and not two or three spots further back in the group,” Lefevere stated. “Sylvain would have been better off by accompanying Jurgen Roelandts in his move, but then again, with the excellent form he showed in the De Panne, there was little chance they would let him ride away just like that. Jurgen Roelandts hasn’t been in the picture too much this year so they allowed them a bit more space. Also, if you see how Cancellara made the selection. Roelandts isn’t a nobody and bluntly riding Sagan off your wheel... Well, there’s not much to say.”
While it’s far from sure that Boonen would have been able to keep up with Cancellara on the Oude Kwaremont or later on the Paterberg climbs, it was still obvious that the team struggled in his absence. Lefevere quickly realized his man would be out for Paris-Roubaix, not only because of his injuries but also because of the mental setback.
“There’s not only the crash. He’s been behind schedule and chasing the opposition since December. He’s been working hard and fighting to make up for the lost time, but each time when he seemed to be back there’s been a crash or something else. That will be extremely tough now,” Lefevere said. “The latest I heard from Yvan Vanmol is that there are four stitches in his right knee and a mega-haematoma on his left hip. We have to wait at least 24 hours before making any assumptions.”
Later, it was confirmed that team doctor Vanmol had ruled out Boonen’s participation in Paris-Roubaix. “We decided that he isn’t riding Paris-Roubaix,” Vanmol told Sporza on Sunday evening. “He rode into a pole at 60 km/h. He’ll have difficulty in walking for the next 4 to 5 days and if all goes well he’ll be able to ride his bike by the end of the week but there’s no way he can participate in Roubaix.
“We can’t tell him that this would be possible. The inflammation on his left hip worries me. He also crashed hard on the same left knee which underwent surgery two years ago.”
Regarding team tactics for next Sunday in Paris-Roubaix the team manager concluded there were few possibilities left other than to anticipate the acceleration from top favourite Cancellara.
“We shall see. It’s always tough to carry the weight of the race but as the French say it in such a beautiful way: ‘L’équipe est à la hauteur du leader.’ The team is at the level of its leader, and that’s what we’ve seen with the team of Cancellara. We’re currently without a leader but the rest all are strong riders, each one of them. We’ll have to anticipate.”