By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix
Four strong men made the front group in Paris-Roubaix: Juan-Antonio Flecha, Steffen Wesemann, Stuart O'Grady and Björn Leukemans from Predictor-Lotto, but on the podium there was only space for three of them and in the end it was Leukemans who missed out. "I think I was one of the guys that made the race but in the end... Flecha can pull some faces, he was stronger than I thought and maybe I was a bit too tempestuous. In the sprint I didn't have the power anymore to turn that big gear," Leukemans said to Cyclingnews.
The Belgian was in the picture all day long, and it was as if he wanted to set the record straight. "I didn't get a single star in the newspapers," Leukemans explained, saying that he was annoyed by the fact that the papers overlooked him when rating the riders. "If I see something like that, the way they write, it isn't true. That's why I pulled all the stops out right from the start."
When it became clear that the group behind O'Grady wasn't making headway, it quickly turned into a tactical fight for the remaining podium slots. "There was no longer dedication for the victory. O'Grady rode away on a two-part cobble section where Wesemann had just attacked. When Wesemann attacked I didn't hesitate to follow but when that CSC rider attacked, I wasn't worried as I thought it was Michaelsen or maybe Breschel. Suddenly I noticed the freckled legs of Stuey and I hoped Wesemann would react, but he was probably recuperating from his own attack," Leukemans explained.
Björn Leukemans used to be the team's man for the Ardennes classics, but this year he found out that he had to give it a go in the Northern classics. "Through the loss of Mattan and Van Bon the team was weakened for those races, and I was asked to fill up the blank," Leukemans said.