By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix
Having finished on the podium in Paris-Roubaix in 2002, Steffen Wesemann was expected to do well in this years' edition despite his having taken a 'step down' from T-Mobile this year to the Professional Continental team Wiesenhof-Felt. But the Swiss/German 'Flandrian' did better than even he expected, and nabbed another podium spot, taking third.
After his transfer from the ProTour team, some cycling experts probably expected Wesemann to fade away. "I'm extremely happy with this result. I didn't get a contract with T-Mobile so to tell you the truth this is ego-boosting," Wesemann laughed.
With 35km to go, Wesemann was in the Boonen group behind the major front group with Leukemans. On sector 7 - the pavé de Templeuve - Wesemann set out to bridge up towards the leaders. Boonen tried to follow him, but didn't quite get on terms. Stuart O'Grady, however, didn't miss the successful ride up to the head of the race.
In the finale, Wesemann couldn't compete with the CSC supremacy. "The CSC team had really good tactics," Wesemann said to Cyclingnews. The Wiesenhof team certainly didn't disappoint the organisers who had given the squad a wild card for Paris-Roubaix. "We were there all day long, first with Pollack and then with me. Wagner managed to support me for a while," Wesemann explained, saying that the team had performed to their best.
Wesemann was one of the strongest men in the race, so we asked him if he wasn't disappointed with the third place. "Of course I thought about winning but what could I do?" Wesemann wondered. "Maybe I could have brought back O'Grady but then Michaelsen would probably have had a go. It was better to focus on bringing home second or third," Wesemann explained.
Last year, Wese managed to clinch an unexpected second place in the Amstel Gold Race after a sixth place in Paris-Roubaix. So what could we expect this year? "Amstel? First I'll need to recover from this race and then we'll see for Amstel," Wesemann said.