Lefevere: 'Our team was too good. They had balls'

Etixx manager felt Boonen deserved a fifth Paris-Roubaix win

During the final minutes of Paris-Roubaix the atmosphere in the vélodrome was ready to reach its climax when five riders entered the track. Among them was quadruple winner Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep), ready to get a record-breaking fifth win. Seeing Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge) take the win in the sprint, beating Boonen on the line was quite the anti-climax. In the Etixx camp obviously there were only disappointed faces. Team manager Patrick Lefevere was there inside the track to await his rider together with personal assistant Stephanie Clerckx. For once, Lefevere was speechless, briefly.

In a first reaction Patrick Lefevere said that Boonen was on his level. "He wasn't the weakest. Boonen was the strongest. He was confident. He told me: ‘If I win I want to do it in the sprint.' Sadly enough somebody was stronger than him," Lefevre said.

When asked by a journalist whether he was disappointed Lefevere got mad. "Do you have more stupid questions like that," Lefevere fumed.

Little later he continued. "I'm very sad for him especially. He's the athlete. He deserved to win his fifth. He did everything for it. Starting with a [lag] on the other competitors. He did have a Winter. He needed every day to come back to this level. He was here. We were aiming for a fifth win. It was win or defeat. Sadly enough for Tom it was defeat," Lefevere said. According to Lefevere he was losing the race before the finish. "He went all in when closing the gap on Hayman. That also cost Boasson Hagen and Vanmarcke the victory. It was already happening on Hem [pavé sector 2]. At five kilometres to go they were all dead. They all wanted to attack but nobody had the juice in their legs to get away. Yesterday he told me that he didn't fear anybody in the sprint. I think that today the most fresh rider won the race."

Hayman was somewhat fresh despite the effort of the Etixx-riders to make the race as hard as possible. The riders from Lefevere featured in most breakaway attempts. Matteo Trentin and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck featured in a group of 25 riders that got away after 25 kilometres. Later they missed out when a group of 16 riders got away after less than 70 kilometres of racing in what turned out to be the decisive breakaway. The group also included eventual winner Mathew Hayman. Ten kilometres later Etixx was working in front of the peloton to get the group back, creating echelons. Once on the cobbles the Sky team took over the command but at sector 20 they were back in charge. First Van Keirsbulck and then an impressive Tony Martin rode the peloton to pieces, shortly after a crash that split up the peloton. During the race Lefevere sent out a message on Twitter, speaking out against the LottoNL-Jumbo team who had six riders in the group.

"It bothered me enormously. I might sound like an old man but I've got an opinion. Our team was too good. They had balls. I didn't see that from other teams. I'm sorry for this. We're the best team. We don't win today but there's nothing we can [blame] ourselves. If we would race like the other teams then there would've been a bunch sprint on the track," Lefevere said.

Despite the lack of results or impressive performances from Tom Boonen ahead of Paris-Roubaix the strong ride from Boonen didn't surprise Lefevere. "It's no surprise to us. It would be very easy to say yes but of course we were hoping that it would all come together today. He was really dedicated to be ready for today. He needed every day to get where he was today. There were no margins. If he'll continue? You've got to ask him," Lefevere said.

Little later Lefevere walked into the arms of Boonen while he was giving away interviews in the mixed zone. Boonen turned out to be the only man in the Etixx camp with a smile on his face. The 35-year-old Belgian rider was happy to be back on his level, six months after his head injury. He'll take a week to decide on his future but hinted that he wants another shot at glory in Roubaix.

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