By Jean-François Quénet in Roubaix
Flecha a happy loser
Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) again hopped on the podium of Paris-Roubaix on Sunday after getting third already in 2005, but he was a happy man at the end of the race, at least after he managed to recover from his final sprint against Steffen Wesemann (Wiesenhof). "I had no more strength at the end," the second-placed said. "I was shouting to myself because of the pain and I collapsed on the grass after I crossed the line. I couldn't breathe anymore."
Having lost so many classics by now, the Spaniard is not exactly a sprinter, but he had listened to the advice of his teammate and fellow countryman Pedro Horrillo who had won a sprint - albeit not for the win - on the velodrome of Roubaix previously. "He taught me the exact tactic for starting sprinting, where and how," Flecha said.
"It's wonderful to be second here, although it's not my first time on the podium, but I felt an exceptional emotion again on stage. I love this race. My mother and my sister were here and I wanted to make the win a gift for both of them but there was nothing to do against O'Grady, he was really the strongest today.
"Do I deserve to win Paris-Roubaix because I've finished twice in the top 3? I think everyone who finishes Paris-Roubaix deserves to win it once! Personally, I've never raced in the worst conditions with rain and mud but today, with the heat, I've realised what the Hell of the North means."
The Spaniard will continue his campaign of the classics for his Dutch team. "The Ardennes classics don't suit me as much as this one, but I'll give a hand to Rabobank."
Petito to decide in August
Roberto Petito, aged 36, has created a bit of a surprise with finishing fifth in Roubaix, although he's been known for riding well in the classics for years. He's also no stranger to the north of France. After winning the Four Days of Dunkirk last year with the Pro Continental outfit Tenax, he decided to go on for one more season under the condition of finding a place in a ProTour team again, which he did with Liquigas.
He received the warm congratulations of Filippo Pozzato in the pitch of the velodrome. The veteran is still highly admired in the world of cycling and his performance in Roubaix might motivate him to carry on. "I'll decide in August whether or not I go for one more season", he stated.
Cancellara to ride the Giro
Fabian Cancellara hasn't won Paris-Roubaix twice in a row but the Swiss powerhouse was happy that he didn't lose it, either, since his teammate Stuart O'Grady took over. "Now I'll take some rest and you'll see me in action again at the Tour of Italy." The Swiss rider was extremely disappointed to be left out of the Team CSC for the Tour de France last year, but he acted as a real professional and worked successfully on his next goal, which was the world championship for time trial.