Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) finished the GP Le Samyn tired and disappointed after being caught close to the finish but was proud to have animated the race and confirmed that he is on form for Paris-Nice.
The 33-year-old Belgian was away alone for more than 50 kilometres, only to be caught with six kilometres to go. He ultimately finished in 22nd position, 44 seconds down on the winner Dominic Klemme (Leopard Trek).
“Je suis complètement choco, je suis mort, lessivé - I'm completely blown, I'm dead, cooked," he told Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure.
"In the morning, I saw the weather and I knew that we were going to suffer with the wind. I wanted to ride hard, make huge efforts and see the stars. Well, I did! I was riding flat out all day. I've never did such a long solo breakaway."
Leukemans was initially joined by Romain Lemarchand (AG2R La Mondiale) but the Frenchman did not have the legs to hold the pace.
"Unfortunately, Lemarchand could not help me," Leukemans continued. "When he took a turn, I had to gear down onto the 17 and my computer showed 5km/h less. There was no point in waiting fro him when he got dropped. I asked myself what I had gotten myself into..."
Leukemans was able to hold his lead for more than an hour before his efforts finally took their toll. "The six riders did not take any time on me, but I suffered because of the wind, I was unable to re-launch when my advance started to melt, " he said.
Despite missing out on victory, Leukemans now has high hopes for Paris-Nice and the Classics.
"I have to recover before Paris-Nice, but I feel good," he said. "On Saturday [at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad], I was wrong in focusing my race on Boonen and Gilbert. I got trapped staying with them. But I've never been so strong and so thin at this time of year. For the Classics, it's a promising sign. Now, I have to continue my progression without getting ill."