Luke Rowe (Team Sky) went on a self confessed suicide attack at the Scheldeprijs, expecting that the inevitable would happen and the sprinters' teams would catch them. That did happen, but that wasn't for want of trying and the Welshman looked like he could have the legs to steal the victory from under their noses.
Rowe made it into the five-man breakaway, which had just over a minute as the race entered the final 10km. However, once Omega Pharma-QuickStep took to the front, the gap was quickly cut down to size. Sensing the danger, Rowe pinged off the front with a strong attack. He had to fight against a headwind along the canal and he was eventually caught with less than three kilometres to go and eventually finished two minutes back on the bunch. Rowe thinks that there was a slim chance for victory, but was happy to prove to himself that he's got the legs at the moment.
"I wanted to go on the attack today, to test my legs and see what I could do. It’s a sprinter’s race and there’s about 99.9 per cent chance that it’s going to go down to a sprint, but you've got to try and it went really well," he told Cyclingnews at the finish. "We only needed another 30 seconds and we could have made it, but guys started soft tapping it and sitting on with 15km to go. It was always a case that we had to go 100 per cent and then sprint it out."
"It would have been nice. It's obviously nice to win a race, but we came here to get a good ride done and stay safe. I think that we’ve all done that, so we’re happy enough."
Rowe's teammates all made it through the race without hitting the deck, something that will be a huge relief for them after the many incidents over the last two weeks. In fact Rowe is one of the few members of the team who has managed to stay safe throughout the Belgian cobbled classics.
This year is Rowe’s third as a professional with the Team Sky outfit. His best result to date was 11th at Omloop Het Niewsblad, in March. It proved to be a fruitful race for the Sky team with Ian Stannard winning and Edvald Boasson Hagen taking third. However most of his time has been spent in the service of others and he will return to that role at Paris-Roubaix.
This weekend is only his second time at Roubaix and he hopes that it will go much better than the last time. "I had to give my wheel away on the very first section of cobbles and that was my race over before it began. I didn't really get a run at it. Hopefully I’ll go there this year, we've got some good guys to support and hopefully I’ll be there towards the end to help the guys," says Rowe.
Stannard was meant to be the team's leader for Paris-Roubaix, and his recent form made him a strong contender. However, he endured a lot of bad luck that saw him crash heavily three times in two races, which culminated in a broken vertebra that meant he could no longer compete at the classics. Despite losing one of their leaders, Rowe is still confident of the team’s chances on Sunday.
"Realistically we've got three guys who can do something; Eddy (Boasson Hagen), Geraint (Thomas) and Brad (Wiggins). At Flanders, Brad was terribly positioned and he still finished 30th. If we can position him well he can win the race."