After three windy stages near the North Sea in the Three Days of De Panne, it was Sébastien Rosseler (RadioShack) who powered ahead in the closing time trial in De Panne. The stout stalwart from Stoumont simply squashed the opposition in a 14.7km long time trial that suited his abilities to perfection and he grabbed the overall victory in the process.
In the first half of the course, Rosseler used his power in the tailwind sections to go ten seconds faster than teammate Michal Kwiatkowski, and on the way back into the headwind to the finish, the 29-year-old Rosseler had enough left in the tank to put four more seconds into Kwiatkowski and his main rival Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM).
“Westra had been so impressive during the first three stages that I didn’t even think about the overall win. I would have been pleased with a top 5 result,” Rosseler said in the post-race press conference while sipping from a blond Ename beer. “I deserved that one, didn’t I?” Rosseler smiled.
The overall win in the Driedaagse is his first stage race victory, although he’s been in the mix for the win in races like the Tour of Belgium, the Eneco Tour and the Four Days of Dunkirk several times. “As far as I know it’s my first GC victory,” he said. “I’ve been on the podium several times because I was often good but not in top form because of some crash.”
With that, Rosseler switched focus to what has been hampering his career: crashes and injuries. “Crashes have kept me from making more progress in my career. Last year I was selected for the Tour de France, which isn’t easy in a team like ours. One month before the race I was knocked down by a car during training. After that I was downcast,” Rosseler said, while taking another sip from his beer.
“But at the start of this season my spirits were good again. Then I crashed in Tirreno-Adriatico and also in Milan-San Remo. I injured my back and my wrist is still causing problems although scans didn’t reveal a thing. I crash way more than I would want to but I probably think too much on my bike. Some guys don’t seem to think when approaching a corner. I’m touching my brakes and lose a dozen positions. There’s always some screw-up happening to me,” Rosseler said.
After his win in De Panne, the ‘Raging Bull’ is clearly reaching top form in time for the upcoming big races, but Rosseler’s team director at RadioShack Dirk Demol warned that one shouldn’t call him a favourite for the Ronde van Vlaanderen. “We can’t call him a leader or he cracks under the pressure,” Demol said, and Rosseler was also keen to distance himself from the role of team leader.
“Our team doesn’t have a leader for the Spring Classics. We’re all at the same level and I think we can all ride the finale... or the pre-finale. The Tour of Flanders is another level from this. Paris-Roubaix interests me more than the Tour of Flanders. It suits me more as it’s less dangerous,” said Rosseler.
When asked whether he’ll focus on top favourite Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) Rosseler laughed before taking one last sip of his Ename. “I will not concern myself with Cancellara. If one of the big favorites goes I don’t think any one of us can follow. Can anybody in the peloton follow Cancellara?” Rosseler asked.
There’s not a big chance that Rosseler will win the Ronde van Vlaanderen next Sunday as the wet cobbles may well pose him problems. However, there is one solution that would help him to avoid the dangers of being in the peloton on the small farm roads in Flanders, and that’s by featuring in the early breakaway. That’s how he won the Brabantse Pijl last year. Think about David Moncoutié (Cofidis) who wins great races with impressive long breakaways. A rider doesn’t need to ride in the peloton to win races. Watch out for the Raging Bull from RadioShack on Sunday.